part 1, by supacat

Being in S.K.I.N. wasn't like he'd expected.

It wasn't like Miyavi had thought that there'd be parties every night, with Yoshiki and Sugizo buying rounds, and him--because he got serious and earnest when he got drunk, unlike when he did other stuff and was a spaz--him telling Yoshiki how much he'd really respected Hide, and Yoshiki saying "Yeah, man," and them hugging.

But he'd thought it would be . . . well, different from how it was. When Miyavi thought about being in a band, he thought about Due'le quartz, all of them stumbling off stage with huge grins on their faces, coming down together after the concert at the nearest family restaurant--Gusto, Jonathan's or Denny's--laughing too loud and plinging fries across the table and coming back with weird melon-soda-and-Calpis concoctions from the all-you-can-drink Drink's Bar.

After a S.K.I.N. concert, the four of them stumbled off stage, then Yoshiki started to review the performance, and then he went to talk to the technicians about the lighting, and Gackt and Sugizo got seriously involved with that too, and you could sort of tell that this was the part they enjoyed, just as much as being on stage.

Miyavi tried listening to what Yoshiki was saying, tried looking at the strobe lighting, tried looking at it again on a different setting, or did that conflict with timing of the drum solo, but his mind wandered even though he kept telling himself to concentrate because it was important.

When he'd set up the lighting for his own show, he'd hired a guy whose stuff he'd liked and said, "I want you to make it, like, really cool!" and that was it.

But he thought, maybe he shouldn't have been like that, maybe he should have been more like this.

Because it was brilliant how they were intense about everything, like it all mattered. Like the lighting, and the speakers, and the video montage. Like that stuff mattered. Miyavi had basically never paid much attention to anything except that the vibe of the crowd was blowing his mind, that the guitar sounded awesome.

And it did. It sounded awesome. He had to play hard to even keep up with Sugizo. He'd learned that in their first rehearsal, when Gackt and Yoshiki had started talking about keys and transposing and blah blah, and he'd said to Sugizo, "You wanna go make stuff up?"

They'd sat down on a couple of switched-off amps, and Miyavi had said, "I always thought this was incredible, we should do something like--" and played the guitar solo from Shine, and Sugizo had said, "How about--?" improvising a mad riff.

"Like this?" said Miyavi, replicating Sugizo's sound with his fingertips, breezing through it like he always did, grinning.

"Yeah, like that but tighter," said Sugizo, who wasn't grinning back, who'd been intently listening.

And it was like a door opened in Miyavi's mind when he realised Sugizo was serious. And Sugizo was right. It could be tighter.

Tighter. That night, he pulled out his guitar and practiced. Not just fooling around having fun like normal. He practiced, like he hadn't done since high school. Practiced for hours, even if he got up and paced around every ten minutes, and had to talk himself into sitting back down and starting up again. Because he wasn't great at dealing when something wasn't easy for him, and playing guitar had always been easy, as long as he could remember, but this, concentrating on something he couldn't do right away, it came with the panicked sensation that he'd never be able to do it, that he was failing. The guitar hero in him rebelled: fuck that.

"Let's try out the song you and Sugizo are working on," said Yoshiki two days later, and this time he owned it, his sound rocked. Sugizo said, "Nice work, rookie," and he said, "Eat my dust old man," and didn't even try to hold back the grin. He was still congratulating himself on nailing the solo when Gackt stood up and sang his way through the second song. Not just marked, sang, and Miyavi had struggled through enough singing lessons by now to know that you couldn't sound like that without warming up for, like, half an hour first, except it was seven in the morning because Gackt had to be on set at NHK at ten thirty.

And then Gackt and Yoshiki handed him sheet music, piano and shamisen--fuck, they'd only just talked about doing something like this yesterday--for him to learn before their next rehearsal.

"It's just a starting point," Gackt was saying, after a brief glance at Yoshiki. "I don't want you to feel locked in. Play around with it. Make it yours." The implicit instruction: by tomorrow.

And that was when he realised that it was different. That it was going to be different.

They had long production meetings where they discussed options, and it was bad when he didn't know which one was better or didn't care, but it was worse when he knew what he liked but couldn't explain why.

One time, he got distracted, started looking around the meeting room, noticing that the ceiling had a small section of exposed wiring, that there was a smudge on one wall that looked like a smiley face. He picked up a pen, spun it between his fingers, then he started doodling on his copy of the schedule, a little stick figure with a guitar, and then he drew flames coming out of the guitar and gave the stick figure a mohawk. Then he added a twirly moustache, and it looked kind of circus, so he drew a whip and a lion, and wrote, "Guitarist lion tamer!" and after that he started to seriously space out.

The droning of voices was oppressive, the walls were growing smaller. He tried to concentrate but the conversation was nothing that he could participate in. He was barely in the room. "I, um." He stood up, had to get out of there. No one noticed. No, that wasn't true. Gackt detached his eyes from Yoshiki for long enough to make eye contact. Long enough to make it crystal clear: I noticed. And that was worse.

Miyavi pushed out the door into one of the side offices furnished with just a chair and a table. He pulled the chair out so hard it flipped over, and then there was no place to sit down, so he climbed up onto the table, crossed his legs and sat on his hands. He recognised this jittery feeling and thought, I should call someone, I wanna get out of here, play guitar, fuck around with my friends. Or just fuck. Where did I leave my guitar again? Oh no, not back in the meeting room, I can't go back in there, Gackt and Yoshiki will be, like, masturbating each other over the right way to spotlight the drum set or--what were they talking about? Fuck, I wasn't listening.

He realised he was speaking out loud when he looked up, and felt his stomach lurch violently.

Gackt was standing with a shoulder leaned against the inside of the doorway, watching him.

"If you've come to check up on what I'm doing," said Miyavi, "This is what I'm doing." He lifted his chin.

Gackt's response was just to gaze at him consideringly. Today, Gackt was 'in costume' as Gackt: rock star leather pants, a thin shirt, his hair styled, sunglasses, jewellery, the whole package. Perhaps because the clothes emphasized that he was long-legged and slender, they gave an impression of youthfulness, made him look younger than he was. But there was no ignoring that Gackt had almost ten years industry seniority, and in terms of authority within the band, he might as well have been Miyavi's dad.

Miyavi pushed off the table. "Yeah, the thing I don't get about you is, you agree with everything Yoshiki says. You agree with him at the start, and then when he changes his mind, you agree. Like you're so into him, all you can say is yes. He's not right all the time." He was talking too fast, words like uncontrolled machine-gun fire tatatatata, he could hear Sakito's voice in his head, I can't talk to you when you're like this. "So what is it, just sucking up?"

Miyavi was breathing a little unevenly from speaking too quickly. He could feel the sped-up beat of his own heart. Trying to get a rise out of Gackt was like shouting at a flower; there was no effect on his elegant lean against the door frame, on his contemplative gaze.

"What? What? If you came here to say something, say it," said Miyavi.

"Want to skip the meeting and go drinking?" said Gackt.

"Oh," said Miyavi, blinking. "Fuck yeah."

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