Hiro and Shuse still made fun of Gackt a little, but that got harder to do after Gackt went solo, his star on the rise, hit single after hit single, TV spots, commercials, tie-ins, the world. Gackt had always had stunning looks; now, after five years of obsessive training, he had a voice to match, and slowly Taka came to realize just how much Gackt had been treading water in Malice Mizer, waiting, learning, waiting, working. Waiting for the opportunity and the right time to move on.
Taka lost touch with Gackt around the time he went to L.A. to record Mizerable. There were rumours, too, about Gackt's past with another vocalist, Michi from Maschera, but when Taka caught up with Michi at a party and asked if he'd spoken to Gackt recently, Michi had looked at him with acid in his lovely dark eyes and said, "Why would I call that sell-out?"
Taka went to Kami's funeral in March, and was unsurprised to find that Gackt hadn't planned to go, and wasn't there.
Malice Mizer didn't fall apart over the next year only because Mana's iron will held it together, but they dropped back to the indies, even with the addition of their extraordinarily pretty new vocalist, Klaha. And Taka believed that La'Cryma Christi was a great band, he really did, but it seemed like there was a limit to how far they could go, like an invisible barrier they couldn't break through; their singles stayed low in the charts while Gackt's music broke the top ten, then the top five, then--
Taka felt like he was floating in glass, and somehow Gackt had found a way to break out. Trapped where he was, Taka, who had always thought of himself as the smart one, couldn't understand how Gackt had done it. He could only form a blurry impression of what Gackt's life might be like up there.
One night, much later, Hiro turned up on his doorstep with his new, smart, short hair cut, which would never be the same as his old one. Taka invited him in, and they had a drink together in the kitchen. It wasn't quite comfortable, but it was more comfortable than they'd been together for a long time.
"You know, I liked the old hair better," Taka said, reaching out without thinking to touch the short, dyed strands.
"Don't," said Hiro, and Taka's hand dropped back to his side.
"Nothing happened," said Taka, the past before him, a blurry shape before his eyes. "Nothing that mattered."
"You know that isn't true," said Hiro.
"Why is life so fucked up?" Taka said, closing his eyes tiredly.
He felt delicate fingertips ghosting along the line of his jaw. Startled, he opened his eyes just in time to see Hiro withdraw, his face sad with a half smile. "Because even when two people love each other, no two people ever love in the same way."
Hiro left soon after that, and Taka cleaned up the mess he'd left behind him, a few bottles, and turned off the lights in the kitchen.