Maybe the kernel of ambition had always been there, hidden in his difference, but the moment it occurred to Gackt that he could leave, Malice Mizer changed.  No longer a vast world, it became a confined space whose limitations chafed him.  He started arguing with Mana over composition and production.  He was avoiding Kami.  Seeing the band through Taka's eyes had started it; now he was finishing it.  The music in his head was different.  Was he becoming real? 

When an executive from Nippon Crown gave him a business card and invited him to a launch at a club in Shibuya, Gackt went, even though it was the kind of place he would normally never go to, crowded and popular.  He lounged against a far wall, not even blinking when several flashes went off in his eyes.  Beside him, the executive in the bulky suit smiled and patted his arm.  The conversations he had begun to have with record management felt real. 

The music was loud dance music, the median age of the crowd about twenty.  And it was a shock to recognize Taka by the bar, laughing at something Shuse was saying.   Taka's whole band was there.  Gackt watched them for a moment, contemplated going over. 

He knew he shouldn't.  Taka avoided meeting Gackt around his friends.  That situation was always uncomfortable.  Gackt disliked enduring the awkwardness of Taka's embarrassment.  He shouldn't go over.

He fingered the business card in his pocket, one of many he'd been given tonight.  "You're wasting your time with visual bands," Kou Watanabe had told him.  "With that face, we could have you at the top within three years, without even breaking a sweat."

"Tokyo's full of pretty boys like me," Gackt had said, softly, echoing Mana, though unable to quite get his mouth around all of it.

Kou's eyebrows had lifted in disbelief, but all he had said, in a mild voice, was, "Perhaps they're poorly represented." 

You're wasting your time with visual bands.  Taka was grinning, and so were Shuse and Levin, and Koji and Hiro were standing near them, by the bar.  Taka's embarrassment.

Gackt thought about that. 

"Excuse me," he said to the executive, putting his drink down on the table.

"Hi," Gackt said, going over, deliberately addressing no one in the group except Taka, who turned and immediately flushed, like he wasn't sure what to do. 

"Hi-- Gackt?  What, uh, what are you doing here?"

"Saying hello."  Innocently.


"Hi Gackt," said Levin, and he glanced over, and next to Levin was Shuse sitting on a barstool, his back to the bar.

"Hey Gackt," said Shuse, patting his own thigh.  "Come sit on my lap."

"I just want Taka," said Gackt, and no one was quite sure how to take that.  Gackt could feel Hiro's black eyes on him. 

"Gackt--" said Taka again.

Conscious of being watched, Gackt leaned in and murmured, "You look good tonight," into Taka's ear.  Their cheeks brushed. 

He felt it the tension hit Taka.  And there was a new feeling inside of him, like something was changing.  He slid his hand into the hair at the nape of Taka's neck, and as Taka's breath hitched, he leaned back in and kissed him.

"Fuck," he heard Shuse swear somewhere in the background and he finally drew back.

The temptation to glance at Hiro was incredible. 

"So . . . call me later," he said to Taka, and right at that moment, he knew inside himself exactly what had changed.

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