Authors' Notes: This is really long. Approaching novella (how I love that word) territory. Contains semi-incestuous-though-not-really coupling, S&M (mostly S) and yaoi. Yay. Anyway, I don’t own the Tekken series, which belongs to Namco, but I have got part-shares in Lee. Mm. Slut. This fic is kind of anachronistic in that it takes place way somewhere around Tekken 2 but the characters probably aren’t the age I’ve made them. Anyway. Enjoy, & reviews much appreciated. *_*
Playing in the Dark
The banners read his name and the media thronged thirty feet beneath them, photographers jostling and flashbulbs popping, wires trailing representatives from every TV channel in Tokyo. He stood beside me, slender and pale in his D&G tux. He fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable. We were sandwiched between two bodyguards so massive that their forearms were thicker than his neck. His eyes kept flicking from left to right, as if searching for an escape route.
—Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee! Over here!
He turned towards the voice and some guy with a camera popped up out of nowhere and shoved the telescopic lens in his face. He shied back like a colt, throwing his hand up in front of the camera. My father shouldered between us, shoved me aside, grabbed my brother’s wrist and held it down. He turned a truly ferocious smile to the photographer. Lee scowled, looking even more photogenic than usual.
My father gripped his shoulders. Smile, he said through gritted teeth. I want this in every colour supplement and every girls’ magazine in the city. If you don’t smile now I’ll give you a reason not to later.
So Lee smiled and the photographer went crazy, snapping shot after shot, obviously unable to believe his luck at getting such a perfect picture. As well he might: this was the first time Lee had smiled all night, and when he did the result was predictably perfect. In that instant, with that frighteningly bland and empty smile, he became just another beautiful person, another idol for the cameras to worship. My father moved back to let the photographer get closer to his target. The guy took a few more shots, then paused to look back over them using the camera’s digital memory.
—These are great, he said, mopping his perspiring forehead with his sleeve. You photograph like an angel. Forgive me for saying this, though, but you don’t look very happy to be here. Could you possibly smile a little more?
—Of course he can, said Heihachi, meaningfully. Lee flushed miserably and attempted a wider smile, but it just looked pained.
—Move it, I said to the bodyguard on my right. Let me through.
—Where do you think you’re going? said my father tersely, swinging round, still holding on to Lee, whose dark eyes pleaded with me for help. I ignored him. Let everyone’s favourite boy get himself out of this one.
—I’m sick of this shit, I said. I’m getting a drink.
I elbowed my way out of the knot of security people and off the red carpet into the throng. I made my way to the bar more by instinct than by actual calculation. As I went, pushing past both honest-to-god celebrities and minor TV personalities – the weathergirl from NHK with her tits and legs out caught my eye briefly as she gave me a sloppy wink – I wondered all the while whether these hundreds of people even knew why they were there, or if they were just drawn to black-tie parties like those glittery butterflies that drink human piss. I shouldered past a starlet in a blue wig whose colourful drink slopped out of the glass. She squealed in drunken outrage, swore at me, and tottered off to get a refill. I rapped on the black marble bar top with my knuckles.
The bartender glanced up, registered who I was and promptly came over, ignoring the queue of people ahead of me.
—What can I get you, Mr. Mishima? On the house.
—Of course it’s on the house, moron. We are the house. Give me a scotch. Straight.
I’d drunk about half of it and successively dissuaded three nymphets from starting three bright and peppy conversations when Lee came up. I sensed him before I saw him; I could almost feel the ripple his presence sent through the crowd. They would part like the sea as he came through; they would fall back from him, from his icy metallic beauty made stunning in the clean black and white of his suit, worshipping with hungry gaze, not quite daring to touch. The birthday boy, the golden and the silver boy for whom this party was being thrown, who already had everything, who needed nothing else for a perfect existence. Money and looks. What else would you need?
He leaned on the bar beside me. He didn’t even have to catch the bartender’s eye; he had it already. The young man, aged about twenty-two or so with spiked dyed-blond hair, was in front of him in a flash. I looked at him with distaste. Everything about this guy, down to the way his eyes were large with admiration-turned-awe, told me that he was obsequiously, pathetically eager to be of service.
—Many happy returns, Mr. Lee, he dared.
—Thank you, said Lee with an effort at a smile, a tired one, as though Heihachi had wrung all of them from him that he had. Could I have a martini, please? No ice, he added. And then he put his head down on the bar and closed his eyes.
—Tough life, I commented. Having your photo taken and getting free stuff from every fashion house in the city who all hope you’ll wear that stuff at the next red-carpet thing you go to. Really tough, Chaolan, I know.
—Shut up, Kazuya, he said, and opened his eyes. I hate this stuff. You know I hate it.
—I know. You’re shy. It’s so sweet. For god’s sake stop bitching.
—If I’d had my way this party wouldn’t have happened at all. But he wanted the publicity, so… By the way, I was meaning to ask you. Who’s the middle-aged guy with all the teeth, you know, the guy who shook our father’s hand for like, an hour when we came in?
—That’s Mr. Muraoka. Why?
—Well, I was in the bathroom just – uh, taking a leak and when I’d finished and I was washing my hands he came out of a stall, and he… He was kind of, um. Coming on to me, I think. Like, he was standing really close and breathing on me, you know? Kept trying to put his hand on my, uh…
—Trying to feel you up, you mean? Yeah, he’ll do that. Been a letch for boys as far back as I can remember. Total closet case. He’s got a wife and two kids in Osaka.
—I knew I wasn’t imagining it, he said, exhaling with relief. Did he ever do it to you?
—Only once. I discouraged him.
—Wish I could. I only came over here to escape from him.
—Wish he’d detained you longer.
—Wasn’t supposed to be.
His drink came. He seized it like a man in the desert, downing it in one.
—I’m really thirsty, he said, by way of explanation, setting down the empty glass. My tongue feels all sticky.
The bartender materialised before him then as if summoned by a dog whistle.
—Another? he asked. I imagined him tongue out, panting, sitting up and begging.
—Wait a sec, said Lee, leaning round me and peering into my glass. What are you drinking, Kazuya?
—Two scotches, he said to the bartender, ignoring me. Thanks.
—My pleasure. Mr. Lee, he said. He took the used martini glass, smiled and backed off, bowing slightly, kept backing away, and almost tripped over an ice bucket.
—You do seem to have that effect on people, I said dryly. Literally falling over themselves to be of service. Lucky I’m immune to the Chaolan charm, isn’t it?
I studied my brother properly for the first time since he had sat down. He looked truly stunning tonight. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen him in a real tux, but it suited him every inch. On top of that there was something of a sluttish air about him, irresistibly so, what with the untied bowtie, the open collar, the tousled hair and the slight flush on his pale skin which told me he was already a little drunk. I felt my face twist into the habitual sneer I wore for him, but even if I disliked someone this intensely I could still appreciate sexual allure, of which he had plenty. Gallons. Metres. Tonnes. Whatever.
—Tsk, I said, leaning closer and studying his neck. Of all the clichés, Lee. Is that lipstick on your collar?
—Is it? Damn. He rubbed at it and went on: Crazy bitch, she jumped me.
—The peroxide blonde from NHK. I tell ya…
—She’s showing it all off tonight, isn’t she.
—Mm. I mean, I was coming over here and she just grabbed me, told me how good I looked, and shoved her tongue down my throat. It was like kissing an ashtray. And she’s got to be twenty-eight at least.
—If not thirty. The old ones go for kids like you. I took a sip of my drink, and then asked: So where’s the old man?
—Oh, he said, making a face. He’s having drinks with the boss of some company he’s planning on buying out. Course, the poor sap doesn’t know that, just keeps sucking back the pina coladas, getting drunker and drunker and agreeing with everything he says. Painful to watch. Managed to get out of there, though. Said I had to go to the bathroom.
—To do a line or two, right?
—Hey, fuck off. He rubbed his nose nervously. I rolled my eyes as he continued, protesting, No way. I just had some wine and stuff. Couple of martinis. They gave me champagne. I like that stuff.
The bartender refreshed his drink without being asked. My brother unthinkingly flashed him his beautiful smile and the poor guy nearly pissed himself. Now I knew why Lee never tipped: as long as these people thought they were in with a chance, he didn’t have to.
—You know, I said, directing my words to the bartender who I wasn’t even sure was listening, still blinded by the brilliance of that smile, You’re breaking the law giving him drinks. He’s not even eighteen.
—So what? rejoined Lee. He’s cool. Anyway, I’ve been getting served since I was fourteen. And I’m not even drunk. And I didn’t do any coke.
—Yep, you said that already.
—Did I? No, I didn’t. Hey, you, bar-guy.
The bartender turned with rapturous expression.
—Sorry, Lee went on, with a sweet smile that would have melted the heart of Chairman Mao. That was rude. I don’t know what you’re called.
—Taki, sir, the bartender breathed.
—Taki. Get me another, please.
Five scotches later and if he’d been tipsy before, now, with the added fact that the coke he’d undoubtedly done was kicking in for real, he was utterly, utterly gone. He lolled on the bar, smiling at the bartender with large glassy eyes and such an unintentionally come-hither attitude that the guy had been ignoring the same chick at the other end of the bar for the past fifteen minutes in order to flirt with him. Now Taki the bartender leaned over and whispered something to Lee that I didn’t catch – though I could imagine – whose spaced dark eyes widened under the silver fringe.
—I don’t know, Lee said in reply, and giggled. It might be fun. D’you want to?
—Baby, I finish at one, the bartender said, guardedly confident, like he couldn’t believe his luck. You meet me then and I’ll show you a great time.
—No, you won’t, I said. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have intervened. In fact, every fibre of my being was screaming for me to just watch the stupid kid go home with this oily flattery merchant. However, there were two reasons for it this time: one, I needed to ruin someone’s night and two, Heihachi had made it clear that he expected Lee home before three, as there was a magazine coming to interview him tomorrow at ten about something completely fatuous.
—He’s not meeting anyone, I said, just to reinforce my point. He’s getting tucked up at home as usual. He’s already up past his bedtime. Aren’t you, kid?
—Mmhmm, said Lee, not listening, stirring the ice round his drink with a colourful plastic stick.
—You can’t stop him if he wants to come, said the bartender somewhat distractedly, staring, mesmerised, as Lee put out his tongue and, holding the cherry from his third cocktail by the stem, began to lick it with obvious relish.
—Who the fuck do you think you are? I said amiably. Of course I can. He’s not a legal adult. And besides – and this is some friendly advice from me to you, Taki – you really don’t want Mishima senior on your case when he finds out you’ve taken advantage of his darling boy, who just happens to be currently out of his skull.
—How would Mishima find out? the bartender asked stubbornly, his gaze straying again to Lee, who was now smiling happily at nothing in particular and playing with a straw. Flushed, drunk, coked up, achingly available. He wouldn’t have to know, the guy went on, and almost groaned as Lee, having put aside his straw, popped the sucked and glistening cherry in his mouth whole and then licked his fingers, one by one.
—I’d tell him.
—Tell who, Lee asked, reaching across the bar for the jar of complimentary pretzels, clumsily unscrewing the lid, putting three in his mouth. I’m really hungry, Kazuya, he mumbled. C’n we get something proper to eat? He swallowed and took another two pretzels, settling down to lick the salt off them. Even I was fascinated this time, joining his swain the bartender in watching as his tongue poked into the holes of the pretzel, getting at every last granule of salt, fantastically flexible. I wondered that only he could make something so essentially unpleasant and uncivilized look so filthy-erotic.
—These suck, announced Lee suddenly with childlike abruptness, pushing the jar away from him and almost knocking it over. I want something more filling… C’n you get me something else? he addressed the bartender, leaning over the bar, propping his chin on his hand, licking the salt from his mouth. Something sweet?
—Oh my god, groaned the guy – Taki – under his breath, his face inches from Lee’s. Oh my god, you’re so fucking hot. I bet you like it rough, don’t you, baby? I bet –
—Whoa there, sweet-talk, I said, amused, yanking Lee up and away by the collar. You’re propositioning a minor.
—I could make it worth your while, said the bartender with a note of desperation. He fingered a thousand-yen note and touched his money-belt, into which had gone the tips he had been collecting for the past three hours. I could really make it worth your while. Please.
—Forget it. It’s not like I need your candy money and I’ve already got everything else you could offer. Come on, I said to Lee, who draped himself willingly around me as I stood up and helped him to his feet. I suppose I’ll have to take you upstairs.
—Bye, Lee said to his bartender and waved with what must have been a heartbreaking combination of flippancy, innocence and allure. I glanced back as we began to make our way away from the bar with me holding him around the waist with one arm, holding his arm over my shoulders with the other. The guy was watching us. He looked utterly crushed. Probably the closest he’d ever been to a religious experience, getting that near to having what no one else had managed to have.
I did my best to shield Lee from the photographers, taking care not to attract their attention by moving quickly and quietly along the back wall instead of cleaving through the middle of the crowd. I did this not because of any care I had for my brother’s reputation but for my own sake; if Heihachi saw pictures of his son drunk and drugged in the morning papers, guess who’d get the blame? Give you a clue: not Lee.
—You’re being so nice to me, Kazuya, Lee said. He’d laid his head on my shoulder. I kept moving. You’re really nice.
—Yeah, I muttered. I’m lovely.
We neared the elevator doors. Lee seemed half-asleep; he nuzzled me and murmured strings of unintelligible words, pressing his face into my neck. The coke was affecting him differently than it ever had me when I’d done it, or any of the people I’d done it with: where he was drowsy and suggestible (with a bad case of the munchies, or so it seemed) I distinctly remember feeling more hyped-up and aggressive than I ever had in my life, looking all over for someone to fight. I wondered who he’d bought the stuff from, and what percentage of it had been cut with bicarbonates. What exactly it had been cut with, come to that.
I propped his head on my shoulder and pressed the UP button. As I did so, as if by some psychic choreography, the bodyguards materialised from the shadows. For gorillas like them they were eerily silent in their movements. I eyed them both. They irritated me, always had done. In their hugeness, in their dumb compliance, they irritated me.
—I’m putting Prince Charming here to bed, I said shortly, indicating Lee. As of now you’re off duty. Go have a drink.
—Is he all right? one of them asked, in a voice so deep I could almost feel the vibrations through the air. What’s he taken?
—Nothing, I lied. He’s just had one too many. Tell my father so, if he bothers to ask.
—As long as you’re sure, sir, the other one said, but the first one wasn’t so easily convinced. He shook Lee’s shoulder with his massive hand and said: Sir. Mr Lee. What happened? What have you taken?
—Mmmnn… said Lee, and turned his head away, into my shoulder.
—He’s drunk, I said, just as the elevator swished noiselessly down from the floor above and the doors pinged open. He’s seventeen and he’s drunk. It’s not unheard of. Any more questions, idiots?
—Sorry, sir, said the taciturn one. We’ll tell Mr. Mishima what you said. If he asks.
He elbowed his partner. They turned then as one and left me holding Lee up. The suspicious one threw me a disbelieving glance over his shoulder, which both took in Lee’s slumped posture, his half-open mouth and sporadically fluttering eyelids and reminded me at the same time who paid his salary. He was not afraid of me, as the other one was. He would go over my head to Heihachi in a moment; that was where his loyalty lay. I cursed under my breath and dragged Lee into the lift, shifting his not very great weight on to my opposite arm as I pressed the button for the correct floor.
The jolt as the elevator started to move seemed to startle Lee from his trance somewhat. He stirred, anyway, and opened his bleary black eyes.
—Welcome back to the land of the living, I greeted him.
—I like you, he said, hugging me round the waist, pressing his head under my chin like a cat rubbing itself against a corner. Mmm, Hiro… I like you a lot. You smell nice, but you know I don’t wanna… I like you… but … but …
—God, you’re wasted, I said, disgusted. How much did you take? How stupid are you, anyway, buying it from some guy in a bathroom at a party? Hell, at least you don’t shoot up, I suppose. Do you?
—Who the hell is Hiro, anyway? Do I know him? Have I ever screwed someone called –
—Kazuya, he murmured, sliding his arms round my neck, lifting his flushed face to mine. Kazuya, s’weird, but I feel really really horny.
—I wanted to lose my virni – my virginity, I wanted to lose it tonight, on my birthday. Don’t you think that’s a nice idea…?
Then he kissed me on the mouth.
Pause for thought here. Oh, yes. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? He was – whisper it – a virgin. Astonishing but true, even if he did subscribe to the ‘oral doesn’t count’ mailing list. Personally I couldn’t quite believe that he’d never (to use his vernacular) done it. He had told me so before and I had always known when he was lying simply because he was so bad at it – so there was no real reason for my disbelief, except for the fact that I would have pinned him for a slut. I mean, you would, wouldn’t you? With his looks. It’s human nature. We assume that the beautiful people are all screwing like bunnies. There must be something wrong if they’re not.
He was probably bi. In the twenty-first, most people are. It’s stopped mattering. I had walked in on him once or twice, necking on the couch, the first time with a girl and the second with a guy (his English tutor, in fact, a student at Waseda and eight years his senior) but there had been few others. Besides, I knew in every case it had gone no further than kisses on the couch, because I had made him tell me. I was always persuasive. Almost sobbing as I bent his fingers back or twisted his wrist (literally twisted it, isn’t that funny? I must be one of the very few people who use the phrase in a decidedly un-figurative sense) he would break down and give in and tell me, No, no, Kazuya, we didn’t, I didn’t, I haven’t. Maybe a part of what made him shy from that last inconsequential step (and it is: sex is and always was, cosmically speaking, nothing) was the thought of what I would say, how I would jeer when I wrung it out of him.
So. His seventeenth birthday and he was a virgin still. For anyone else less beautiful this would not have been strange, not at all: but for him, who could have had his pick of the city, practically, since he was about fourteen, it was. Strange, isn’t it? Like I said, he seemed the type to be free with his favours. Yet it had not worked out that way, not at all. Every time it stopped when anyone wanted anything more than kisses and fondling from him. His hopeful conquerors and conquests went home all kissed out and a great deal hornier than they were when they had arrived. He had good taste, though, even if the girls were too blonde for my liking (give me a redhead any day of the week). Some of the boys, though, were delicious. A few found their innocent way to me, the spider at the centre of the web of corridors that is that ghastly mansion. I can’t say I was mindful of sloppy seconds or anything like that in the hours I spent buried in them, spread on my bed, left hanging by Lee and made so willing. I made them sorry they had wasted their time on a cold thing like Lee and then I sent them home without a shower, reeking of sex and cigarette smoke and me. My little brother’s little unknowing gifts to me. Oh, don’t you worry. I was properly grateful he was such a psychosexual mess.
The time I remember in particular was when once he brought home a stunning man in his early twenties. This was when he was about fifteen. The guy, as I found out later, was an ex-pat American. He had light biscuity skin and wide, frank dark-lashed brown eyes and well-cut feathery hair the colour of dry sand. He was a shade under six feet tall: lean-muscled, broad-shouldered and slender. He was almost as beautiful, in a totally different way, as Lee himself. I can say all this with such accuracy because I had met him, abruptly, as I came out of my room at about five o’ clock for the first time that day. Similarly he was just closing the door of Lee’s room. He had his back to me. When he turned and saw me his coffee eyes widened in surprise and he clutched the towel, which was all he wore, tighter round his waist. I remember thinking that my brother had really outdone himself this time.
—Who the fuck are you? I said, not particularly caring if he understood me or not. I was pleasantly surprised therefore when he replied, in strange, flat, accentless Japanese, a fetching flush rising on his cheeks:
—Sorry. I was – I was with –
—With Lee, I said, eyeing him with slightly roused interest. He had said boku, I noticed, rather than watashi. Did he live here, then, that he was familiar enough to do that? Not comfortable enough to use ore with me though, even though I was obviously younger than he was. Well, it was my house, after all. There was only one question remaining: was I in the mood for a quick fuck? I mused on this for precisely four seconds before remembering that this was a senseless question. The answer was invariably, boringly yes. I only hoped he would be more fun than average. I hated it when the person I was screwing just lay there and did nothing except tell me they loved me. Sex is not a one-man sport.
—We came in at lunchtime, he was saying, apologetically. I didn’t know there was anyone else in. I’m really very sorry if I disturbed you.
—Four whole hours with my sweet little ototo? I said dryly. Well. Who would have thought it.
—You’re his brother? Dark eyebrows went up. God, you don’t look – I mean, he never mentioned –
—No, he wouldn’t. So tell me, gaijin. Did you fuck him?
—What? In his shock he said this in American, but then recovered himself and his lingo and said: I don’t think that’s any of your business.
—No, it’s all right. He’ll tell me anyway. We share everything, I added, placing heavy emphasis on the last word.
—Well, no, we didn’t do anything like that, he said, pacified, with a frankness I found endearing. I gave him head. But he likes kissing better.
—He would. Where did he find you, then? His latest father figure…
— My hobby isn’t cruising kids in bars, you know, he said defensively. I said he was too young. I said at the start I wasn’t interested. He was the one who asked me back.
—What changed your mind?
—I was lonely, he said simply. And he’s so beautiful. I couldn’t help it. My girlfriend’s back in Chicago.
—Girlfriend, hn. Do you know how old my brother is?
—Eighteen. He told me. Oh … I wasn’t sneaking around, by the way. I thought it would be OK if I went to get something to drink. Lee said before it would be all right. He’s sleeping at the moment, but I thought…
—You thought you’d get him drunk enough to want to fuck.
—I wouldn’t force him if he didn’t want to, I’d never –
—Lee is selfish in bed, I said, running my eye deliberately down the line of the towel. You should know that as no one’s managed to make him give it up thus far it’s highly unlikely you’ll be the one. You must be frustrated as hell.
—He’s not really eighteen, is he.
—No. No, he’s not. He’s not old enough to drink. Or drive. Or fuck. Or go to an adult jail. Old enough to still have school tomorrow, though.
—Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus. That means he’s not even sixteen? I’m twenty-three. Twenty-three. I could go to jail.
—I’m eighteen. What do you know.
And with that I turned and went back into my room, leaving the door open behind me.
Two hours later Lee came in without knocking. He called for me as he came through into my bedroom and then stood there, silent. I glanced up, didn’t bother acknowledging him, and went back to my novel. I was sitting in bed, smoking and reading. The American – I don’t know what he was called, not because I’ve forgotten but because I never asked – was sleeping with his mouth open, his cheek pressed into my hip, sprawled across the bed. I shifted slightly and he mumbled something in English. He had been very good, actually. Lee, he had cried, Lee, oh, Lee. I would have forgiven him it if I had cared enough to need to forgive, because he did not know my name either. I began to stroke his fair hair with my free hand as I turned the page with the other. I was just doing it to annoy my brother.
—What the fuck, Kazuya? said Lee in a tight whisper, right on cue. What the hell are you playing at?
—You can’t tease them, little brother. They have needs. They don’t come home with you to kiss and cuddle.
—Fuck you, he said, white-faced. Fuck you, you slut.
And he strode out and slammed the door behind him.
The American stirred. He woke, slowly, as I slid a marker into the pages of my book; he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and opened his brown eyes blearily, yawned and would have sat up had I not slid my hand into his blonde hair and held him down, guiding his sleepy fair head down between my thighs. He was every bit as good as he had been before. I came surprisingly quickly, for me, a testament to his skill.
—Can I call you? he said.
—Mm. Don’t think so. You haven’t got my number.
—Oh, he said, crestfallen.
—Your Japanese is very good.
—Thanks. I can speak Cantonese too. Lee and I were talking. He seemed really happy. He said he hadn’t had a proper conversation since he was a kid. God, he’s beautiful. You both are.
—Maybe, but I think a threesome’s out of the question. Sorry.
He smiled weakly.
—I feel kind of bad, coming home with him and then … well … with you …
—Don’t. In your place he would have done exactly the same to you. If he wasn’t so frigid, of course. Now, I assume you can show yourself out.
—Oh, um. Yes. Sure. Thanks, uh –
—Don’t mention it. Goodbye.
I picked up my novel and opened it again. It was Murakami’s latest, a really surreal one to top the last, and it demanded all of my concentration. I was already immersed in it before the blonde had even collected his scattered clothes. Another protagonist called Toru? I thought, as the door closed with a soft thud.
Thus the tale of the American. It serves, if nothing else, to highlight the fact that one, I am a stud, thank you very much, and two, the following point. You see, over the years I’d known my brother I had got the impression that he didn’t actually like people very much. Girls irritated him – they talked too much or not enough, they were too made up or too plain, they were too pushy or too shy – and men kind of scared him, I think, though he would have died before he admitted it. It was their sheer dogged persistence to get some no matter what; it was the fact that what they were thinking was so obvious in their eyes when they looked at him. He would berate me angrily on the occasions I foisted off an inebriated business contact of our father’s on him to entertain. I remember once him storming out of the den, flushed and angry, his hair messed up, his tie askew, the lower buttons of his shirt undone. I asked him, only half-joking, whether he had actually let the guy fuck him, adding that Heihachi didn’t want the contract that badly. His dark eyes flashed and he punched me in the face.
—No, he said, standing over me, breathing hard. He didn’t fuck me. Not that he didn’t try. Now it’s your turn, Kazuya. You go in there and be polite to him, because I sure as hell will not.
The ones who swore they were utterly straight were the worst, in my experience, the ones who wouldn’t even admit to being bi: they came on strongest to a pretty thing like him, thinking he would be an easy and female-like conquest. They were the angriest when rejected; and the way he rejected them, with merely a cold look, a casual cruel word, or by simply ignoring them, enraged them further. He had come home more than once with thunderous expression and bruised knuckles from a brawl that he had set off by doing just that, turning down one of those aggressively ‘straight’ guys in his uniquely icy way.
—This whole city is fucking obsessed, he burst out once as we were crossing the street after being cruised very obviously and lasciviously by a tipsy middle-aged businessman with tie at rakish angle. I hate this. Ugh! What’s wrong with them all?
—Wear shades, I suggested boredly, as a Jag screeched to a stop three inches to my right, horn blaring. You’ll attract fewer sharks.
—I’ve tried. Shades don’t suit me.
—Well what do you expect, then, if that’s your attitude? You take care to look good then bitch when people notice. For Christ’s sake, stop complaining.
One night the previous year he and I had gone out into the city. I hadn’t wanted to take him in the first place; I was on my way out and he was sitting in the living room, cross-legged on the floor playing on his game console with a can of Pepsi beside him and a box of some kind of sticky-looking pink candy. He wore white socks and a loose white t-shirt and ancient ripped jeans. He looked up as I came through on my way to fetch my shoes. He took in my jacket and keys. His eyebrows, dark and precise as slashes of paint beneath the silver, pulled together, minutely.
—Where’re you going? he asked, calculatingly.
—Can I come?
He got to his feet, scowling. Father said you had to take me if I wanted to go.
—You don’t like going out.
—I do tonight.
I gave him a stare of such narrow dislike that any normal-skinned person would have withered and died on the spot, but he just looked straight back, smiling in the knowledge I’d have to take him now that he’d played his blackmail card.
—You can come if you want, I said. Or not. I don’t care. I can’t be bothered arguing with you. As long as you don’t get in my way you can do what the hell you like. But I’m warning you. I’m – not – fucking – babysitting. If you’re not there when I go home, then you walk.
I left, not bothering to turn and see whether he was following. I called the elevator and went down, all the way six floors down to the underground car park. I stepped into the gloom and bypassed the two limos and the Rolls and approached my beautiful silver-white Lotus. My last birthday present to myself, wonderful shiny thing, perfect in every line and sinew. It was the best thing I owned and I cherished every square inch of it.
I beeped off the alarm, opened the driver’s door and got in. The seat embraced me. I closed my eyes for a second, relishing the almost physical pleasure, the anticipation of driving, the sweetish smell of new leather. This machine was made for me. They tell you not to do this in enclosed spaces; but this was my car, mine, and there’d be no way I’d rather go. I turned on the engine and waited.
Almost a full minute passed before I heard his footsteps echoing across the poured concrete floor over the soft hurrrr, the magnificent big-cat noise of the engine. He opened the passenger door and hesitated before sliding into the seat. He glanced over at me and then did up his seat belt with an almost defiantly definite motion.
—We going or what, he said.
I threw the Lotus into reverse and then pressed the accelerator down, the machine shot forward, pulled out of that warm monoxide darkness into the noisy neon half-light of eleven o’ clock on a Tokyo night. Sixteen and beautiful he sat shotgun in a four hundred thousand dollar customised convertible. At that moment anyone who saw him would have said, with justification, that he had everything, everything this world could offer. We drove in silence, insulated in our polished steel bubble, as the people outside and those packed into the restaurants mouthed and gestured in animated silence. I steered slowly through the clogged streets.
—Where d’you go? he asked, breaking the quiet. Usually, I mean.
—Depends. I glanced in the mirror and swiftly nipped across a lane of traffic, cutting up the car behind me. Its driver leaned on the horn. I gave her the finger.
—On what? Lee persisted.
—Where you go depends on what?
—On my mood.
—OK, OK. Jeez. No need to bite my head off.
He crossed his legs and uncrossed them, leaned forward, fidgeted, fiddled with the CD player, played with the cigarette lighter. My hands tightened on the wheel. My knuckles were actually white, and I had thought that was only a cliché.
—What does this do? he began, jabbing at the air-conditioning switch, then: Oops.
I gripped the wheel and said nothing. I gritted my teeth and pretended I was squeezing his throat.
When I told him that where I went depended on my mood I was telling him the truth. He’d riled me, the little bastard; he could always get under my skin. So that’s how come we ended up at the seediest place in Shinjuku, this place I’d been to once and, when I realised there was actually a film of grease on my suit when I came out, vowed never again. I can’t put it strongly enough how disgusting this place actually was. This bar redefined the word dive. Its resident insect life had probably abandoned it for classier residences. The only reason I’d gone back on my word was that I wanted to discourage Lee, categorically, from ever coming out with me again.
—Here? he said dubiously as I pulled to a stop outside.
He paused, looking at the bar through the windshield, before slowly undoing his seatbelt. I knew he was reluctant to get out of the car.
—Are you coming or not? I said, getting out myself and remote-locking the car door, waiting to set the alarm. Again, the only reason I was willing to leave my car in a place like this for more than ten minutes was by virtue of the distinctive number plate marking it out as my car, that is, the vehicle belonging to Mishima Kazuya, the man with the biggest private army of crack mercenaries in Asia at his disposal. Stigma of the zaibatsu and its de facto power surrounded our family like a dark cloud. This suited me just fine, especially when it came to the assured safety of my possessions.
—I said, are you coming?
He climbed out and shoved his hands in his jeans pockets. His t-shirt had ridden up and he was unintentionally showing off a perfect backside in denim that left little to the imagination. Especially as these were the jeans with the rips in the back of the thigh, just cupping his ass, that our housekeeper had twice tried to mend. And oh my god – I felt my eyebrows lift in sheer disbelief – I could clearly see through those rips that he wasn’t wearing any underwear. When he moved I could see a glimpse of the naked creamy skin of his backside. It was the equivalent, in a dangerous neighbourhood like this, of a girl going out in a barely-there skirt or with her tits out on show. How naïve, how stupid, how categorically dumb…?
I put on my shades and watched him rock uncomfortably back and forth on his heels, eyeing the dark entrance to the bar. He glanced over his shoulder at me with affected casualness.
—Coming or what, he said, with absolutely no enthusiasm.
Despite myself at this I had to suppress a grin. He looked so young and so obviously ill at ease – not to mention pretty, there was no other word for it, he looked prettier than ever against this ugly urban background – that he was inevitably going to attract attention. I remembered some of the choice individuals I’d had the privilege to interact with last time and my grin threatened to burst on to my face unchecked. This was going to be hilarious.
Sure enough when we walked in the place was packed to the walls with seedy lowlifes: truckers and prostitutes and their pimps and a few army and navy guys on leave and a couple of mid-ranking yakuza that I recognised and who nodded to me and street-gang types with ripped clothes and dirty hair, all jostling each other to get to the greasy bar.
Lee, regular patron of Tokyo’s VIP lounges, shrank to my side – I actually felt him recoil – and watched the heaving mass of humanity with slanted dark eyes gone wide, their whites showing. His mouth hung half-open, with horror, or shock, or disgust. I clapped him on the shoulder and said: See you later, kid, and then I shouldered my way through the mob to the bar. The yakuza cut through from their side too, glided like pirhanas toward me and offered to buy my drink. I wasn’t surprised; my father was in the middle of a deal with their boss. They said they wanted to reinforce his equanimity and affability. I accepted and went to sit with them in their booth, and even got into something resembling a conversation with them. They’d bought two more rounds before I remembered Lee. I stuck my head out and looked up and down the length of the bar. I couldn’t see him.
—You seen the kid I came in with?
—What’s he look like? asked the bartender, who obviously couldn’t care less.
—Cute. Silver hair. Dark eyes. Shorter than me.
—Yeah, he said cagily. Mebbe I seen him. What’s it worth to ya? He cut his eyes unsubtly over to the jar labelled Tips.
I narrowed my eyes and waited.
—In back, he said finally. You his friend, you better go see what’s goin’ on. Know what I mean.
And he went back to cleaning the bar top with a bit of what looked like an old t-shirt, which was black with dirt and grime already.
I strolled unhurriedly to the back door, pausing to shake hands with each of the two yakuza in turn. I opened the door and stepped out into the night. The cool air on my face was pleasant after the decidedly pungent odour indoors.
—Get off me! I heard, a shriek. I’ll fucking kill you, son of a fucking—
I paused, listening, then lit a cigarette and walked round the corner in the direction of the profanity.
They were three. Nothing special; big and muscular, your average dumb brutes thinking with their cocks. Lee was pinned against the wall with his shirt half over his head, trapping his arms. He was struggling and thrashing and swearing, kicking at them with his heavy motorcycle boots, the only weapons he had. So far he was keeping them off. One of them pulled the t-shirt off him altogether and grabbed his wrists above his head, grinding the delicate bones together so that Lee hissed through his teeth and stopped kicking for a second. The man took advantage of the lull in proceedings to run a fairly grubby hand over Lee’s chest and stomach, fingering the thin silver chain round his neck.
—Got to get some, sweetheart, said the guy in a drawl. Where did you come from, hm? Never seen you before in my life, and I definitely would’ve remembered if I had. Mm, you were cute when you smiled back in there, but you’re hotter when you’re angry. Give it some more fight, babe. I know you like it rough like that.
Lee swore and spat in his face, trying to bite his hand.
—That’s what I’m talking about, the guy chuckled, and began to unbuckle his belt.
—Come on, said the second one, shoving his friend in the back. I saw blood gleam through his sparse hair. Stop screwing around and get on with it. Fucking hell. Never would have bothered if I’d known he was gonna be so strong. Wouldn’t think it, would you, but angel-face here’s broken my nose, most likely. Karate, for god’s sake? Fucking brat.
And he slapped him across the face, hard, with the force of a full punch. Lee spat blood on the ground. When he lifted his head I caught the gleam of tears on his cheeks, frustration and anger at the way his body was failing him by tiring now, of all times now. He kicked again and had a fist driven into his stomach as a reward.
—Fuck you, he gasped, gulping for air.
—That’s my privilege, cutie, said the first guy, who had by now undone his leather belt.
He gestured to the other two to come forward. They held Lee’s arms, crucifixion-style. The first one slid rough hands down the boyish bare chest, down to the low-slung waistband, where he began to undo the fastening of those much-loved awful ripped jeans. Lee watched this stranger’s hands on him with a kind of frozen horror akin to the expression he’d worn when we first entered the bar. He watched as clumsy fingers assaulted his four buttons. The top. The second. The third.
—Leave him, I said, walking into the pool of jaundiced light thrown by the streetlight on the other side of the wall. I threw down my cigarette and screwed it out with the toe of my shoe.
They all three turned to stare at me, inadvertently letting Lee go. He stumbled to his knees, probably adding another tear to his jeans.
—Who the hell—? the first one growled.
—Kazuya, said Lee, and his voice was half a sob. Kazuya. Fucking hell.
—Mishima Kazuya, I introduced myself, and then added with a casual gesture of the hand: That’s my father’s son you’ve got there.
—Fuck, said the third one who hadn’t yet spoken, in a semi-whisper of awe. Fuck. This is Mishima’s kid…? Fuck.
—Looks like it, I said. And as I’m not in the mood to kick your collective ass, you can run now. Better be quick, or else I’ll be able to remember these ugly faces for next time.
They practically fell over themselves, comedy goons, in their haste to get away, scrambling over the wall and off into the rat run back streets of the district, terrified no doubt that the bulk of the Force would soon be hot on their heels.
—You OK, I said dutifully.
—Yeah, he whispered.
I bent and handed him his t-shirt, the white cloth now ripped and dirty. He held it tightly to his chest. He was shaking all over: violent, convulsive spasms. I rolled my eyes, shrugged off my jacket, and threw it at him. He dropped the t-shirt and caught the black suit jacket. The white lay on the ground, a pale scar in the parched dirt.
—Don’t get blood on that, I said as he slipped the jacket on and clutched it round him to cover every inch of bare chest. It’s Prada and it wasn’t cheap.
—It wasn’t my fault, he burst out violently.
—It never is.
—The youngest one, he came up just after you split and offered to buy me a drink. And we were getting along okay. He was getting kind of too friendly, if you know what I mean, touching my thigh a lot and staring. Then he asks me how much, and I was like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I swear I didn’t, Kazuya. Then he goes How much, like I didn’t hear the first time, and I tell him to leave me alone, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. What’s with you, he goes, not selling it tonight? He was coming on really strong and I’m like I’m getting out of here, I’m not up for this, and I tried to find you, Kazuya. But then him and his buddies, they come out of nowhere and grab me. They surprised me. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even fight them off, our father would kill himself laughing at how pathetic I was. I thought I was dead.
—Well, you’re not. Happily.
I lit another cigarette and turned to go back inside.
—I was so fucking scared.
And he burst into tears.
—Don’t give me that, I said. You were the one who wanted to come. And if you will dress like a whore, you get what’s coming to you.
He stared, stricken, the wetness of his face catching the sickly yellow light of the streetlamp. He could not be hearing this correctly; even I, even Kazuya could not be so cruel. Could I?
—But – he whispered. But I – Kazuya, I never – thought –
—No, you never do, do you? I screwed out my cigarette against the wall. I’ll be in the car, I said. Don’t make me wait.
And the thing is, I liked him once. That’s what’s so sad about it all. When he was ten and I was twelve and he first came to live with my father and me, after a week or so of suspicion and minor resentment at having to shre when I never had to before, he and I made tentative steps towards something resembling friendship. We were not inseparable (I was too prickly a child for that and he was sometimes just a bit too self-assured for my liking) but we were at just the right age and of the right contrast to be playmates. I liked to have someone to boss around and, given that he had been uprooted to a new country and was just learning Japanese and table manners, he was not yet very confident and was usually willing to do what I said. I liked him fine, even became protective of him at school.
I thought about it often, the fact that we could have grown up to be friends: even as I said those things then in that dark yard behind that hellish bar amid his tears of fright (and I knew how cruel they were even as I said them; there was no thoughtless spite in those words) I was remembering our epic games of hide-and-seek which, in the vastness of my father’s house, could last for hours. He would hide so well I could never find him. I never wanted to give in and call him out.
But soon, very soon after Lee’s arrival, perhaps six months afterwards, Father began to pit us against each other in training. He would make us fight, laud the winner and ignore the loser. Or at least he did at first. Eventually I began to notice that, even when I won, which was more often than not, me being the older and stronger, he would give me nothing more than a cursory nod, then dismiss me so he could give Lee some pointers.
And then of course there was the day I overheard the telephone conversation. Thanks to that I can pinpoint forever the happy day my hatred of them both, of Lee and my father, began. As if what was happening was not clear enough. As if I couldn’t have guessed, given a few more months.
The two of us were playing hide and seek, our new favourite game. I had hidden myself behind a huge and thickly-leaved rubber plant in my father’s office. I was crouching there, hugging my knees and congratulating myself for my ingenuity, when to my dismay I heard the soft swish of the door sweeping open across the thick carpet and the muted thump-thump of my father’s heavy tread. I held my breath and prayed he would not see me. He had forbidden us both come in his office often enough. There was the creak of leather as he sat down in his luxurious swivel chair, the one that Lee had once almost broken when I had dared him to spin round and round on it. My legs were uncomfortably folded and starting to cramp, but I dared not move an inch.
There was a click as my father picked up the telephone. He dialled.
—Get me Nakano Ryuhei, his baritone rumbled. Tell him it’s Mishima.
A pause, and then:
—Nakano? Just called to – yes. Yes, it’s gone through. Ha, I knew you would be pleased. We’ve saved you again, Nakano. Careful, this is becoming a habit. He was silent for a moment, listening, then he laughed. Aizawa? he said. Aizawa wouldn’t notice a nuclear strike. We’ve nothing to worry about from that quarter.
He relaxed into the chair; I heard the leather creak again. Business done and put aside, he was preparing to talk to the old friend rather than the equally crooked associate. And sure enough, in the way that I had heard countless times before, his tone changed.
—How am I? he said. Hn, well, all things considered. And yourself? Good. Yes, my sons are well too, thank you for enquiring. Yes, he’s settled in nicely. He and the brat get along surprisingly well. I know. I can’t help thinking it’s a pity. I mean to say, I did not bring him here to be a little playmate for Kazuya.
I stared at the rubber plant. Lee would still be hunting for me, I thought. My legs prickled unbearably with pins and needles but I did not care about that now. As my father spoke, I assimilated what he said. I made connections. I was beginning to understand. From what he said next it would not have taken a genius to do so. Lee would have understood. He was the stupid one, my father said so, and he would have understood just as well as I. My fingers clenched into cold fists on my thighs. I listened.
—Mm, said my father, flicking a letter-opener between his fingers. You are an old friend, Ryuhei, so I’ll let you away with saying that. I have tried with him. It’s no good. He is too headstrong, and far too clever for my liking. Ever since he was an infant, he – no, I could never trust him implicitly. I’ve washed my hands of him, Ryuhei. He is strong and quick, but he will never run this company while I have any say in the matter. He is too like me in all the wrong ways. Hence, Lee. No, that was his name before the adoption came through. Do you think I would have chosen something so common, so Chinese? Anyway, you must come in for a drink one of these days and meet him. He is a charming little thing – he’s shy just now, but then so was Kazuya at that age, and look at the brat now.
He laughed and went on: No, no, nothing alike. The boy is his absolute opposite – pretty, he’s very good-looking, but none too bright, as far as I can tell. That’s why I chose him, a beautiful little thing with practically no brains. He’s very malleable. Perfect for my purposes. Just wait, Ryuhei. By the time that boy is eighteen you will not see him but Mishima Heihachi, born again into a second youth. You must come over and see what I mean. It’s amusing to see them play together when in ten years’ time they’ll be dying to slit each other’s throats… All right, Ryuhei. Next week? Let me see… No, not Tuesday. Thursday? Sevenish? All right. Good. I shall see you then.
He hung up. He shifted some papers on his desk, sorted through them, plucked one from the sheaf, stood up and walked out, reading. The rubber plant’s waxen leaves swayed as he went past.
And there I remained, tucked behind it, hunched over foetuslike in my knowledge. The words sat in a malignant soup in my brain. Separately they made no sense, but together, in their monstrous whole, they spelled my destruction. If I let them. For I had not bitten the apple but had it thrust down my throat, whole: and now I could either let it poison and choke or I could take it into myself, digest it and use it and deal with it. I’ve washed my hands of him. Well and good, for I washed my hands of him. Black-hearted dead cold old corpse, evil bloodsucking leech. And Lee. My brother. My playmate. He would still be looking for me even as I sat here.
He did not know that I was not playing any more.
—Do you know what a cuckoo is, Lee? I asked him later. I said the words slowly and clearly.
He looked up at me, a Pocky stick half-way out his mouth, and, shrugging, shook his silver head.
—It’s a bird that goes into another bird’s nest and steals its eggs and eats them. It eats the baby birds in the eggs and it breaks the ones it doesn’t feel like eating. Then it either lives in the nest it stole or wrecks the nest and then flies away.
He looked at me, uncomprehending. Metaphor was much too advanced for him at this point.
—I don’t like you in my house, I said slowly, leaning close to him. I don’t like you using my things. I don’t like you in Japan. I want you to go back where you came from. You – don’t – belong – here.
He held his head to one side slightly, frowning. I wasn’t sure if he had understood all of it, or any of it. I stared coldly back. Even if he hadn’t in fact understood, he obviously sensed that something was amiss. He thought for a second, then he took the Pocky stick out of his mouth, snapped it in two, and offered me the strawberry half.
—Aniki, he said, in his sweet voice, his charming hesitating accent. Kazuya-kun. Play more now?
I took the icing end and he smiled, that beautiful smile that would get him anything when he grew up. I paused, holding his precious candy and hating him, hating that smile. I walked over to the wastebasket and dropped the thing in, then turned and walked out.
I don’t know where all that came from. I don’t need to think about all that now. Real time again, and none too soon. Yes – back we go, back forward through the years to the shortened version of the Elevator Incident, as it shall forever now be known. Here goes. Condemn me later.
So my ‘little brother’ (never was never will be) kisses me. So what, you may ask. Just forget it, you may say: it is wrong on so many levels. Fuck you. Didn’t I already make my point, and eloquently too, that I don’t care who I screw? It’s really not a deep emotional experience for me; I don’t cuddle afterwards. And let’s look at the situation objectively, shall we? This boy is sexy and seventeen and horny and everyone wants some, the whole city would fall over itself to be where I am now, so it must be worth tasting, it’s all OK, even though I can’t stand him. If this city, bless its black soul, knew how screwed up this Chinese cuckoo actually is, the dirt and squalor he was birthed from, the way his mind works, they’d think twice about it. They’d think twice about him, believe me. I’m the only one who knows. And I’m thinking: I’ll do him this favour. I’ll treat him exactly the same as every other quick fuck I’ve ever had. I will do him this favour.
He kisses me on the neck and says something incoherent. And then he starts grinding up against me, straddling my thigh, surprisingly adept for a boy who’s rejected his carnal existence and I say: You want it, don’t you, you do want it now, and he agrees, he’s practically begging me for it and I make a mental note to hook him up to cocaine and scotch more often in the future. Because it isn’t terrible having a beautiful thing like him drooling all over you when you didn’t expect to score tonight anyway. Because I figure this won’t be so useless for blackmail purposes.
Condemn me later.
I sat down on the firm giving mattress of the hotel bed and looked at him. He stood there weaving, watching me with big dark tranced eyes, running his tongue over his top lip in a subconscious gesture that may have been down simply to nervousness or to the dry air but that turned me on as surely as anything. I looked back at him, mechanically aroused, unsmiling. He was so very pretty. How many times had I noticed? He was prettier than anyone else I’d ever had and I felt nothing for him now bar a kind of numbed hatred, a dulled antipathy that had been worn down over the last seven years to a lobotomised kind of dislike. He licked his lips nervously but still he did not look away. In that moment he passed some important test. I wanted to see him do everything. I decided to keep the light on.
—Take off your clothes, I said.
He hesitated for a moment, just the briefest of moments, as if sense were stabbing dully through the haze of drink and coke, but then he took off his jacket and tux waistcoat and began to undo the buttons of his shirt. I waited. He paused again and looked up at me, a puppy just itching to be kicked, and I knew he was praying that I wouldn’t hurt him or do anything bad to him. Don’t tickle, don’t, Kazuya, don’t!
I nodded for him to continue. Submissively he thumbed open his belt, missing the catch a few times in his nervousness, unbuttoned his pants and stepped out of them. He was wearing white socks, no underwear. He met my eyes briefly, blushed and looked down.
He came. He stood before me, unreasonably attractive. He was shy with himself, with his own nude perfection. He avoided glancing into the mirror but lifted his head and met my eyes, setting his mouth, jutting his jaw. The display amused me. He was a child pretending, playacting a confident part. He did it so well I was almost convinced. I got up and ran calm hands over him. At first he stood, rigid, and only let me touch, not responding. Knowing his weakness for these semblances of tenderness I lifted his chin and bestowed on his mouth a kiss slow and sweet as honey.
—Kazuya, he said when I finished, Kazuya, I…
I had seen this in a movie once; I touched my finger to his lips and smiled, gently. Reassuringly, I thought. That was what it was supposed to be, anyway. Visibly he relaxed. Again he leant in to kiss me.
And soon, when that was out of the way, soon he was shuddering and sighing as I touched him in places that he hadn’t known could be so good. He was just flesh and blood like me, like the rest of us, and he was a temperamental teenager who was too rich and too spoiled, but he was also incandescently and inhumanly beautiful: his body was blemishless and perfect, and, down to his sweet socks, everything about him was erotically charged. Everything about him was sensual. I slid my hand between thighs like shaped marble, just to show him what he would know with me; I corrupted him with my mouth and teeth, leaving marks, wounds, on his neck and shoulders. He was too far-gone to care. He let me do what I would to him and I only gave, in between, in return, the kisses he needed so much.
Carefully I sat down again, noting his arousal, sat with my legs apart and my hands on my thighs. He stood there, flushed, breathing hard, hands straying down to his stomach and groin, a frightened, dare-me expression in his eyes. He waited, not quite daring to go any lower.
—Do it, I said. Touch yourself. Go on.
Still he hesitated, though I knew he was aching to obey.
—Come on, sweetheart, I said. It may as well have been a stranger saying it. I had never called anyone that in my life before. I barely recognised the need, the tremor at the core of my own voice. It’s all right, I said. I won’t stop you.
Vindication was all that he needed; his catharsis was already halfway complete. Obediently now he licked his fingers and reached down. He drew in a soft breath, a thrill of pleasure flickering across his face. He closed his eyes. I unzipped and settled back on my elbow to watch, but I could not relax, I could not be casual about this, about any of this. I could not blink lest I missed a moment.
Soon his breaths began to grow ragged; his eyelids fluttered half-open and he bit his lip: a coming-soon shudder, a half-moan. My own grip tightened. I tasted blood. Our eyes met and between us, like a leaping of electricity, snapped the dirty thrill of a dirty thing.
—It’s bad, Kazuya, it’s wrong, he moaned, shuddering convulsively now, bracing himself against the dresser with one hand. It’s – wrong – it’s –
—It’s a sin, I said, as he mouthed the words. It’s a sin.
I should explain. When we were younger – when Heihachi took a greater interest in us in order that we grow up to be like him – this most natural thing was forbidden, implicitly. My father, though the consummate businessman, also retained a great deal of the kind of superstitions more commonly found in the backwoods or the remote villages. They had been ingrained in him by his father, a Buddhist monk and dôjô master from Kyoto. I had been witness to these crazy little rituals and rules ever since I could remember, but they all came as something of a shock, I’m sure, to Lee. As I said, one of these rules forbade pleasuring oneself sexually because – and my father actually believed this – a man’s essence was said to be linked inextricably to his ki. The connection was pretty obvious: waste it and you became weak. And Heihachi would not tolerate anybody who was linked to his name, be it by blood or by adoption, becoming weak.
I was woken one night during that heat wave of a few years back, the one where everyone deserted Tokyo and moved into their summer places in the mountains, except for the workers of the Mishima conglomerate, of course. How many years ago? I must have been about sixteen, younger than he is now. I lay in the hot dark for a minute with my eyes open, trying angrily to pinpoint what had wakened me when it had taken so damned long for me to fall asleep in the first place. Forget it, I thought, after I had listened carefully and heard absolutely nothing. Besides, I had school in the morning. I turned over and closed my eyes.
And then it came again.
This time I heard it. A human scream, almost too faint to make out. I sat up and felt around beside the futon until I got hold of the soft cotton of my discarded gi pants. I got into them and stood up in almost one motion, staggered across the room, disorientated by the rush of blood to the head, and opened the door.
Immediately the sounds became clearer. I looked down the long carpeted corridor, peering into the thick darkness. As far as I could make out Lee’s door was closed. Had the noise really come from behind it? I thought I might be mistaken altogether – a robbery in the street below, perhaps, something else entirely – and made for the second time to go back to bed.
Again. No mistaking it – and there were words this time, said in a low growl, the reply in a higher-pitched tone. The former resonated with fury while the latter vibrated with pure panic, a quivering violin string of fear. I could not catch what was said. There was a pause, in which the whole house seemed to hold its breath, and then a crash so loud it was as if a thunderclap had broken inside the corridor where I stood.
I ran down the corridor, soundless in my bare feet on the thick carpet that might as easily have been soft black earth in the darkness, and threw open his door, wrenching it violently through its arc.
I was blinded by the light. Every lamp in the lounge area of his room was turned up to full; every window had its curtains stripped back, and the huge expanses of glass threw back the glare into my face. Another scream, so loud and raw, rising from nothing and receding into a sob, sent chills skittering down my back. I felt my way forwards, blinking uselessly as I went, my eyes still seeing the after-image of the lamps. Here was the turnoff to the bathroom – I ignored it and took the three steps leading to the open-plan bedroom instead.
—Lee, I said, stumbling into his bedroom, rubbing my eyes and squinting into the dazzle. Lee, you – what the fuck is going –
And then I found myself thrown backwards by rough hands, literally taken by the shoulder and lifted up and back, propelled into the air. I slammed against the wall, hitting the back of my skull against it before I crashed down, vision flashing black-white-red, on to on my backside, legs sprawling.
Idiotically all that I said after that was, Ow. I was close to tears of pain. My head was splitting and I’d bitten my tongue on the way down. My mouth was full of my coppery blood. I closed my eyes to quell the dizziness and hoped, if this was indeed, as I thought it must be, an armed robbery or a gang rape, I wouldn’t have the ill luck to pass out.
A pair of large feet in traditional and familiar sandals came to stand before me. Kazuya, they said (well, you know what I mean – I wasn’t thinking very clearly at this point). It is good you have come here at this time. You too shall learn from your brother’s folly.
—Father? I lifted my head with an effort. Why was there screaming? The noise, it woke me.
He said nothing, only stepped aside.
And there, on the large low bed, clad in only the tattered remnants of his pyjama bottoms, lay Lee. His hands had been wrenched behind his back and bound, so tightly that his wrists swelled around the wire cord, the same wire cord that hung in a loop on our garage wall. His legs sprawled at weird disjointed angles. Horror struck through me like a low chord. Were they broken? He shivered as he lay, flinching and twitching in what looked like a minor fit as blood seeped through the soft grey jersey cloth that had once been his favourite item of clothing. He saw me then and tried to say my name, then his eyelids fluttered and his dark eyes rolled to white, and mercifully he stilled.
—What’s he done, Father, I asked in a near-whisper, staring at the boy as dread rose in me like dark flood water. I was unquestionably frightened more for myself than for him. At least he was unconscious.
—I’ll tell you what he has done, he said with a fearful sneer. Mrs. Uesugi found this under his pillow.
My father tossed the thing at me. It hit me in the face and slid into my lap.
It was a hentai manga called Momoko-chan, fronted by a picture of a schoolgirl bending forward provocatively, her skirt so short her panties were showing, her shirt partially unbuttoned. I’d seen it before on the stalls; it was nothing special, just the usual stuff about a teenage girl getting done by everyone and everything. Mrs. Uesugi was a harmless middle-aged woman with teenaged children of her own. She probably hadn’t dreamed of getting Lee, her favourite, into trouble. She had probably thought it funny. I could just imagine the scene: Mrs. Uesugi coming out of Lee’s room this afternoon to collect the vacuum cleaner, absently holding this magazine on top of a folded pile of dirty sheets and laundry, planning to put it right back where she had found it. And then my father coming by and spotting it. Of course he would have affected calm, asking her where she had found it, and of course she would have told him, because it’s only natural for boys to have this kind of thing hidden away, isn’t it?
—I instructed her to place this thing back where she found it, he said. And lo and behold, what do I find when I come in here just half an hour ago but your brother – indulging himself. Have I not warned you both? Have I not told you, repeatedly, that I expect you both to control these urges for your own good?
—He’s a fourteen-year-old boy, I said carefully. It’s nothing unusual, Father. You must know that. And it doesn’t hurt anyone, really it doesn’t.
The slap across the face hurt quite a lot.
—You too, Kazuya! he snarled. I had hoped you were above this depraved form of self-indulgence. What have I told you – both of you – about this kind of filth? Have I not said that I will not have it in my house? He jabbed at the book with one finger. This is the reason why your brother’s karate is so poor. This is the reason why he keeps failing, why his ki is so weak!
His voice had risen to a shout on these last words. On the bed Lee gave a visible start and came round, suddenly, with a moan on his lips that he immediately fought to quell. His eyes, stretched open wide with terror, were fixed on something I could not see from where I sat. Heihachi followed his gaze, smiled humourlessly, and turned and picked it up. It had lain half-concealed at the end of the bed. It was a whip with an ivory handle that I had last met when I was twelve. I had hoped never to see it again.
—No, Father, please, Lee said, and the tears leaked from the corners of his eyes, his fierce black tiger’s eyes. I’ve learnt my lesson, I –
—I believe I shall be the judge of that.
—No! Lee howled, and suddenly jerked into action, fighting with a kind of doomed frenzy against the wire rope binding his wrists; thrashing his legs, churning the sheets on the bed. Heihachi slapped him hard, wrenched him on to his back and raised the whip. I opened my mouth in a soundless O of horror, wondering that even he, even he would hit his son across the face with that grotesque lash – and then, with an astonishing burst of strength Lee managed to get one hand free, tearing it through the tightness of the cord’s noose, ripping his wrist on the metal wire, peeling the white skin back to red like a blood orange. He flung his hand up in front of his face, ribbons of blood streaming down from his wrist. And the lash descended, whistling through the air, viciously thin. It sliced into his shoulder, through his skin and deep into the muscle of his shoulder like a hot wire through snow.
He screamed. Of course he did. At such close range the sound was truly bloodcurdling. Blood rose through the layers of him to the surface of his pale skin and spread like dye on water.
Heihachi seized his injured shoulder and leaned in close. Blood seeped round his fingers. Carefully and precisely he dug his fingers into the wound. Lee stopped screaming and turned dead white. White as snow, white as coke. His eyes rolled and surely he would faint, surely he was going to pass out, merciful god let him pass out.
—Make that noise again, said my father, and I will break your arm. Do you understand me?
Lee nodded, fast, biting his tongue, closing his eyes for a second, his face a mask of agony. Heihachi released him with a jerk, using the momentum to fling him down, face-down on to the bed.
—Control, he said, raising his voice as the lash sang through the air. Boys must learn control.
—Stop, I heard myself say. Stop it, Father. He’s only a child. He’s learnt his lesson. He’s bleeding.
—Do you hear, Lee? said my father in a voice oozing malice, halting the punishment for a moment. From the bed Lee raised numb glassy eyes to mine. Your aniki stands up for you. Figuratively speaking. Do you wish his interference? Are you as weak as that?
And Lee, holding my eyes, tears sliding down his cheeks, every inch of him screaming Help me, whispered: No.
—That’s my good boy, said my father. He leant closer to his son and, reaching out his large coarse hand, stroked the dishevelled silver hair that was damp with the cold sweat of terror. At his touch Lee did not recoil as I thought he would; he lay there still as death, making not a sound except for the small hiccupping sobs that I knew he was trying to suppress.
And then with the suddenness of a viper’s strike up came the whip again and down, and down, and down.
—It was his! screamed Lee now, violently breaking his silence. He was curled up under the force of the blows, actually writhing with pain. It’s not mine! He gave it to me – it’s his, it’s Kazuya’s!
I stared at him from where I sat, numb, unable to get up and leave, unable even to close my eyes and stop watching.
—Don’t add to your sin by lying, roared Heihachi, and tore into him with such ferocity that the boy’s back began to resemble a panel of red criss-crossed bleeding lines, a maze of pain. Now let – this – teach – you, he went on, punctuating each word with a crack of the whip, a black snake that struck and bit and rose and struck again into pale luminous skin, raising thin ribbons of blood across back and buttocks, never – to – practise – such – unnatural –
—Father! … Father, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again, I’ll try harder, I’ll try harder at karate, I’ll – I’ll –
At this, Heihachi paused. The boy lay on his stomach, a whipped dog, cringing, sobbing into the mattress. You would be a monster not to feel for him. You would have had a heart of ice. I sat there and stared, dully. I could not think and I could not feel anything but the animal instinct of self-preservation, the exact same instinct that had made him try to pin the blame on me. I could not condemn him, either. I knew I would have done the same thing.
Heihachi straightened and looked down at me. I looked back blankly. My brain was on autopilot; I hadn’t had a coherent thought that I could remember in the last ten minutes.
—Clean him up, he said curtly. Then he threw down the whip, spat on the floor and walked out.
—Kazuya, said Lee hoarsely some time later. Who knows how much later? I had lost all sense of reality: when I closed my eyes I forgot which way was up and which way down. Please, Kazuya, help me. He tried to raise himself on his elbows. The wounds in his back gaped like raw mouths. I didn’t move.
—Lee, I said eventually, and it was with a heroic effort that I managed to lift my head and force out the words from a dry mouth. Get up. I’m supposed to clean you up. Hurry up. It probably won’t scar. It didn’t with me.
—I can’t. Kazuya. I can’t. He had managed to get into a sitting position but his face was whiter than the minimalist walls, his eyes huge and staring. He looked like he was about to faint. He leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes, his face turning almost grey.
I hauled myself to my feet and nearly threw up, the nausea combined with something like vertigo was so bad. The floor swung out from under me and I staggered to the bed, finding it with my hands, collapsing on to it. I closed my eyes and swallowed, hard, but everything span and span and span.
—Are you OK, aniki? he whispered, and his voice shook. Are you feeling sick?
My head lay on his lap. He began to stroke my hair with trembling bloody hands.
—It’s OK, he said, and I didn’t know whether he was talking to himself or to me. It’s OK.
I must have been concussed, I know I must, but I remember all this as if it were a dream, a surreal nightmare; we were trapped in that room, with the thick smell of blood and the sharp tang of fear still hanging in the air, heavy as a dark blanket. I remember getting up and half-crawling to the bathroom. I remember wiping the blood from his back with warm water and a white towel, which fell to the floor soaked in red when the task was done. I put iodine clumsily on the long thin strips of scarletted flesh and he controlled himself admirably, not flinching, even though it must have felt like acid. We were both in a kind of heightened state of shock, a trance-like shock, I think. After I had finished with the iodine and, carefully, with the kind of care drunks take when walking in a straight line, stuck plasters with colourful cartoon characters on them over the wounds, I patted his head and I said Well done, you were brave, as if I were a doctor or a patronising nurse, and he turned round on his knees and we kissed.
We kissed. What else can I say? What can I say to make it more vivid? I kissed him, he kissed me. We kissed. Long and desperate and slow, and there was no contact save for the joining of our mouths as we poured into each other everything no one else would ever know. He still tasted of salt tears.
I woke before him the next morning. That sentence implies sex, but there was none. Just the kiss, and then we had each fallen into a dark sleep that was akin to me to passing out. When I woke my head ached. We had slept on sheets spattered with semen (for after all what had he been doing when my father burst in on him? He was a teenage boy, Heihachi, he wasn’t a saint) and blood and tears. On top of all this there was the personal fragrance of him, the sweet smell of his hair combined with the inexpressible scent of his body, and of me. There was no clean air in the room and my head hurt not only at the back where I had struck it but also at my temples, the vice-like grip there hammering and screaming out for fresh air and aspirin.
I sat up and looked at the clock. We had both long missed the start of school; it was not worth either of us going in now, anyway, even though the Mishima Polytechnic was only three blocks down. Mrs. Uesugi must have been instructed not to wake us, because she usually got us both up at six to train with my father before breakfast.
The sun slid its rays across the bed, bright and cruelly cheerful as a clown. It touched Lee’s face, outlined sweet mouth and individual eyelashes. It would have wakened me, were I him, but he slept on, undisturbed. He always slept like a cat; I envied him his ability to fall asleep wherever and whenever and then sleep for hours unless literally shaken awake. He was the one who had once slept through his stop on the train and ended up in Osaka. Some time during the night one of us had kicked off the blanket and he lay naked, supine, as peaceful as if he had never suffered in his life. He usually slept on his back but of course that wasn’t an option, so he lay now on his side, one hand under his head, the other curled up beside his face. He breathed evenly. I got up and left him there in the blood, the sweat, the semen, the sunshine.
The next day Mrs. Uesugi lit a bonfire in the garden and burnt those ruined sheets.
—Kazuya, he said now, still panting, fresh from his pleasure, You zoned out. He looked down. You still haven’t—?
—It’s OK. I will.
He took a step towards me and wobbled, almost losing his balance.
—Hey, he said, I just remembered. You didn’t give me anything for my birthday.
I considered for a moment, taking in his sticky thighs and stomach, my love-bites (such misleading terminology, I thought, for bruises like the ones found on discoloured fruit) on his shoulder and throat, his tousled hair, his hungry liquid eyes. Something stirred; my cock hardened again. Count to a hundred. Come and find me.
—How remiss of me, I said. I’ll give it to you now.
I took him by the shoulders and pressed him to his knees. I then took a handful of his clean silky hair and guided his head, all that wonderful frothy silver, the colour of polished Lotus, down between my legs. He looked up at me, puzzled, and I felt some of the age-old infuriation surface. I gritted my teeth into my father’s vicious smile and explained, very carefully, what he was going to do.
He didn’t know how. He’d never done it before, of course, had it done to him but never actually done it. Sweet little virgin and such a fast learner. I held his head down and said things like: Use your tongue, your teeth. Mm. Like that. It was mechanical and it sounded forced. It took a while, perhaps twenty minutes, before he got good enough at it to make me stop thinking. I bit my tongue and watched him work at it, really going for it now, his hands on my thighs for support. I braced my hand behind me on the bed and closed my eyes, teeth locked into a rictus grin that felt and probably looked more like a snarl. I closed my eyes – but nothing my imagination could come up with was better than the sight of my beautiful silver haired stepbrother glowing like an angel in the gloom as he gave me head with the enthusiasm, if not the finesse, of a whore. He was just another guy to screw around with, another body to use. I was pretty close then; that thought helped to push me further towards the edge. He started to experiment with his tongue; drawing pointed teasing circles with the very tip. I can see you, Kazuya. You’re bad at this game…!
I grabbed his hair and forced him into my crotch. I gritted my teeth. He gagged, choking, as I thrust into his mouth. His fingers dug into my thighs and he made a strangled sound as he tried to back away on his knees, but I held tight to his hair and kept him there. I didn’t let him up.
—Swallow, I told him a second before it happened. Swallow every drop.
Take a cookie for me. Change the TV channel. Tell him it was you who broke the vase.
And he did. I couldn’t believe it but he did. He came up dishevelled, flecks of my come on his tongue, on his chin. Absently he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth just as the American had when he woke. He looked dizzy, like he’d just woken up, and when he stood up he staggered a little, staggered backwards a few steps. He swallowed again and stared at me. What the fuck are you waiting for, I thought: a well done and a pat on the head?
—I couldn’t breathe, he said. I couldn’t breathe for like a whole minute, Kazuya.
—Happy birthday, I said, ignoring him, zipping up. Get yourself a towel. You’ve missed a spot.
— I couldn’t breathe, he said. You nearly suffocated me. Kazuya. Are you listening? His voice wobbled.
—Oh, Jesus, I groaned. Don’t cry. It’s not worth that. It wasn’t even very good.
—I don’t – I’m not. He scrubbed at his eyes with his knuckles. I watched him. He was definitely more lucid; he was coming down, coming round.
—Kazuya, he said a moment later.
—Just so you know, I’m not doing that again.
I got up and took my keys off the bedside table. You’d better go to bed, I said. You can call for the limo in the morning.
—Wait – I don’t want to stay here on my own. Kazuya, promise not to turn off the bathroom light.
There was a pause. Then, with the kind of candour that only comes with intoxication he said: You aren’t nice to me at all. Not any more. You’re a bastard, Kazuya.
—Give him a coconut, I muttered, tossing my keys up and catching them.
—You knew I couldn’t breathe, you knew. You know what you are, you’re a fucking sadist. You remember that time last year in Shinjuku? Remember? I bet you don’t. I bet you’ve just clean forgotten all about it. I always thought you knew what sort of place that was beforehand. And you know what? I bet you wanted them to do it to me, so you could watch!
—No, I said, and stood up suddenly, making him twitch backwards. I went to him and thrust my hand roughly between his legs. Sharply he drew in his breath. Into his hair I said: They couldn’t have what’s mine.
He was in the playground. Being teased for his hair and his accent by a boy called Usami Tatsuha, the popular arrogant kid of our class with almost as much money as we had. I remember this. I was so angry. I waded in there with a face like thunder and kicked the shit out of the kid. Before the teacher managed to pull us apart, to pull me off him, I had kicked him once more as he lay clutching his stomach and moaning. I remember what I said, and I meant every word. Leave my brother alone, asshole.
—Your keys, Lee managed. They’re digging into me.
I bit his shoulder, just a nip, experimenting for the thing that would make his breath quicken, and then continued up, nipping his neck, the place beneath his ear, his earlobe, the tip of his ear. With this last he practically melted into me, spreading his legs wider as he stood, pressing himself into my touch, rocking on his heels, kissing my face, my mouth, my neck. All he wanted was affection: give him that and he was anyone’s. It would have been an epiphany, but I had already suspected as much. He was a classic case: in lieu of parental affection he would seek it from other sources and blah blah blah. Such a vulnerable psyche, and so transparent.
—I want you, Kazuya, he said desperately, clutching me. The next sentence hung, suspended, unspoken. Don’t hurt me.
—Yes, I said, opening his mouth with my two fingers and slipping them inside. Of course you do.
His tongue touched my fingers and he flushed. I wondered why he looked so uncomfortable for a second before I realised; of course, he was praying that I wasn’t intimating that he’d have to blow me again. At my command he began to suck on my fingers, but he avoided my eyes. This made me smile. I’m not doing that again, said so firmly, so dogmatically. He couldn’t even be honest with himself.
—Mm, you’re getting good at this, otôto, I said, withdrawing my fingers, made wet with his saliva. I think you should have another go for real. I’ll be nice to you this time. I promise.
He didn’t say anything.
—Hm? I pressed.
Still nothing. He watched me with his unsettling dark eyes, slender brows drawn down into a frown.
I shrugged and released him. I reached into my breast pocket for my cigarettes. I tapped one out and lit it with the lighter I’d taken from some freak I’d once slept with, an anonymously average guy from a bar who’d wanted me to fuck him. He probably had a wife and kid. His initials had apparently been Y. M. I ran my thumb over the monogrammed letters as I inhaled. My brand was imported Gauloises, which I knew Lee hated, really bitter-tasting and pungent, unfiltered. When he smoked, which was rarely, he smoked menthols, which I hated, so we were equal.
—I don’t care what you say. I said I wasn’t doing that again and I meant it. I didn’t like it. I’m serious.
I exhaled a cloud of smoke in his direction. He waved it away, coughing.
—Do you have to? He folded his arms and commenced his lecture voice, which I must say I found rather more endearing than I usually did, given that he was totally naked but for those socks. You know I hate the smell. And those French things are like, ninety percent tar. They’re really bad for you.
—Preaches the little coke fiend, I said, and exhaled again. That’s irony. Anyway, what the fuck do you care about my lungs?
—I’m not a coke fiend.
—Yes you are.
—Fuck you, Kazuya, I’m not.
I swung him round and shoved him in the chest. He fell back on to the bed and immediately struggled to sit up, bracing himself with his hands, saying, Hey …
I surveyed him for a few moments in silence, holding my cigarette between the fingers of my right hand. His long slender legs and flat stomach glistened with sweat and come and his hair was ruffled as a bird’s feathers are ruffled, mussed and shiny. Slowly he pulled himself back a few inches till he met the pillows at the head of the mattress. His eyes were locked on mine and now fear stood out in them, bright singing points of fear, and now that it had come down to it as I knew he would be he was thinking twice, though the wheels of his brain turned slowly and caught on the however many grams of cocaine it had taken to get him this high up. From ground floor to seventh in a flash, figuratively and physically – and now the lift began to descend, excruciatingly slowly, and his eyes were clearing even as he looked at me.
—Listen, Kazuya, he said. He drew his legs together, pressing together his thighs, closing the gap entirely. I think I should go.
—I said shut up.
—I’m going home, he said, sliding his legs over the side of the bed and standing up. He wobbled and put a hand to his head. Dizzy, he muttered.
—Get back on the bed.
—I’m going home, Kazuya.
—No. You’re not. Stay where you are, otôto.
Ignoring me he did up the fastening of his pants and slung his jacket over his bare shoulder, leaving his shirt in the corner and his waistcoat half under the bed.
He nodded to the discarded items.
—Bring those for me later, would you?
—Yeah fucking right.
—Whoa, bitter, Kazuya, he said mockingly, with a tilt of his head. Better get used to it. After all, you’ll be working for me in ten years’ time.
I switched my cigarette into the fingers of my left hand, tapped the ash on to the floor, and then I hit him. I hit him really hard. With a single punch I knocked him flat on his back. As he went down – like the proverbial ton of bricks – he struck the back of his skull against the jutting black wood of the bedpost. He made a sound, a muted cry, and crumpled to the carpet. He wasn’t expecting it. His eyes rolled white and shiny like milk and he crumpled down on the floor like a doll, all floppy limbs.
I took a drag on the cigarette, inhaling so deeply that my head spun, and then I bent over him. Blood crept from his lower lip and dribbled with the consistency of thick spittle down his chin. I breathed smoke in his face. He coughed and came round with the suddenness of someone startled awake. His eyes flickered crazily from side to side as if the pupils were trapped in his eyeballs, and then he focused on me with what I thought was an almost audible click, like something slotting physically into place.
—Kazuya, he said, kind of rolling his head back and forth on his neck, looking around the room as if he’d never seen it before.
—I don’t feel very good, he said, and now he really looked like he was about to cry. My head hurts. A lot. Everything’s blurry.
—Please. What a cliché.
—Can you turn the light off? It’s hurting my eyes.
He sat up and looked around, slowly, as wary as an animal in a strange environment, his dark eyes huge in the pale of his face.
—Where am I? he asked eventually.
—Enough with the hackneyed phrases, Lee. Please, you’re killing me here. We’re at the Palace.
—Is this my room or yours?
—I want to go home, he said, standing up and swaying dangerously, rubbing at his left eye with his knuckle. I want to go to bed. My own bed.
—Well, I don’t know how you’re going to get there. You haven’t got the limo, and no way in hell am I letting you drive the Lotus.
—Will you drive me? Or can you call me a taxi? he asked, pale as chalk now and swallowing hard. Please?
—Do it yourself, I said. Here. I took my cellphone from my pocket and tossed it at him and added, There’re about four firms in the address book. Take your pick.
His reflexes weren’t anywhere near as sharp as usual and his fumbling and dropping the phone gave me an inordinate amount of pleasure. Seeing him fail had always roused something in me. And now he was ordering his taxi, slurring the name of the hotel slightly, his hand to his forehead, pushing back his hair from his eyes. I got up and went over to him as he was telling the taxi company his name. I laid my hands on his hips because I wanted to remind him of my presence. For some reason he relaxed at my touch. I frowned, thought for a moment. I brushed his hair away from the nape of his neck and pressed my lips to the bared skin.
—Yes, he was saying into my phone. It’s Mishima. No, M-I-H- um, M-I-S-H-I-M-A. Yes. At the Palace. As quickly as you ca – ah, Kazuya, what’re you d – excuse me, no, I wasn’t talking to you. Just send it quickly, would you?
He ended the call, snapped the phone closed and handed me it back over his shoulder without turning round. I took it, satisfied that he’d made a fool of himself (even just to the moron at the taxi firm) slid it into my pocket and tapped my cigarette against the edge of the dresser, dropping more ash on the carpet. Stretching his hands out in front of him like a blind man he crawled on to the bed and lay with his back to me, legs curled up. His bare back showed the curve of his spine, the delicate ridges of his shoulder blades. I sat beside him and reached out to touch his smooth side, and then stopped as he rolled on to his back and lay there looking up at me, pale and sweaty.
—Are you feeling sick? I said quietly.
—I want to go home. I feel so awful, Kazuya. I’ve got such a headache and I’m so tired…
A few minutes later he closed his eyes and did not open them again.
I pulled his head into my lap and began to stroke his hair.
Return to Archive