“Don’t worry,” Yuuto whispered to Seiji, holding his hand and trying to give the man he loved some warmth. His hand is so cold… “Everything will be fine. You did your best. Your work is amazing. I’m sure everyone will love your paintings.”
“Thanks,” Seiji said, breathing slowly. Despite his actions, it made no difference; he still looked nervous.
The couple had arrived at the art gallery for over twenty minutes. Even so, they still stood inside the limousine. Seiji was too nervous to get out of the car. The best he could do was to look at the entrance through the tinted window.
He’s so nervous he can’t even open the window, Yuuto thought. But that’s expected. It’s a big night for him. Even Seiji couldn’t believe himself when he got that phone call…
It was late morning Sunday, but neither men had woken up. They stayed up too late making love after watching an anime movie Yuuto had chosen.
But when his cell phone rang, Seiji muttered something unintelligible and answered. After a brief conversation, if you could call it that, since he said nothing, that lasted less than thirty seconds, the painter was fully awake.
Yuuto grumbled. “Who’s calling so early?” he asked in a sleepy voice as he rubbed his eyes. But then there was no answer, he turned to his boyfriend “Seiji…?”
The painter wasn’t paying attention to the petite man lying naked next to him. He was too shocked about something to notice much.
After a lot of effort, Yuuto got his boyfriend’s attention.
“Who was that?”
“It was grandpa’s friend… he… he told me that my painting was selected for an exposition and said that they wanted the others too.”
Yuuto was thrilled for Seiji, even if the painter’s expression was the opposite.
This exposition is an amazing opportunity for him as an artist, Yuuto thought, glancing at the entrance of the art gallery through the window. Then he flashed a tiny smile. I just wished he’d told me… I had no idea he was painting so much…
He looked back at the man he loved and rubbed Seiji’s back.
“How are you feeling?” the teacher asked after a while.
“Like I’ve just eaten too much and then someone punched me in the gut as hard as they could,” the painter answered right away.
He does look rather sick.
“That’s… an accurate picture of your face right now,” he admitted with a wry smile. “How long were you thinking of it?”
“Ever since we parked,” he said, forcing a smile to no success. “Maybe instead of a painter, I should’ve been a writer. I doubt I’d be this nervous.”
He laughed at his own joke. But all he managed was a nervous laugh that soon died. Then Seiji turned to the window again.
Yuuto let out a little chuckle.
“Take it from someone who’s been reading and following writers ever since he can remember. Writers have it just as bad painters. Maybe even worse.”
“Wow, thanks. That doesn’t make me feel better though,” Seiji said, and this time his laugh lasted longer.
That put a smile on Yuuto. Good. If he’s making jokes, it means he’s relaxing a little.
“It doesn’t help?” The teacher put a finger on his chin and hummed. “How about if I reveal you something you don’t know about this art gallery? I’m sure it’s gonna make you feel better.”
Seiji turned to him. “What?”
Yuuto leaned closer to whisper.
“Did you know the first time I felt something for you was in this art gallery?”
“What?” The painter narrowed his eyes. Then his face lit with comprehension. “Back then? I had no idea!”
“Ah, I knew you never noticed,” Yuuto said, smiling. “It was after you found out my secret. After you painted me for the first time.”
“Yeah, I remember that… After I showed it to my grandpa, he showed to his friend who was an art dealer and he arranged to have the painting exhibited here…”
“And then you invited me to have a look,” Yuuto said, raising his eyebrow.
“I remember that too…” Seiji showed a gentle smile. “That was when you started liking me?”
“I think so… But back then, I had no idea I could have those kinds of feelings for another guy, let alone my student. But perhaps, if not for that night, it might have taken longer for me to realize I loved you.”
Yuuto’s smile grew, and he leaned to kiss the man he loved.
Seiji kissed him back.
“Then this art gallery is lucky for me,” he said when they parted their lips, his spirit rising.
“Yeah, it is.” Yuuto wrapped his arms around Seiji. “And if it’s up to your art, this exhibition is gonna be great.”
“But those painting…” The artist pressed his lips as he glanced at the entrance of the gallery again.
“Are amazing,” Yuuto completed the sentence. “I know you didn’t make that painting to be hanged in a gallery, being your grandfather’s beach house and all, but don’t worry. It’s amazing and people should see how much you loved the times you spent with your grandfather as a kid. Trust me, it’s amazing.”
“You say that of all my paintings,” Seiji mumbled, though he barely managed to hide his smile.
“Yeah, well…you are an amazing painter. Though if I may say, there are some paintings I’d rather you never showed to anyone,” the teacher said, his cheeks a shade of pink that had nothing to do with his makeup.
“Agree.” Seiji chuckled. “Some I’ll keep to myself.”
“And I’m gonna keep myself from asking why.”
“Because you already know the reason.” Seiji pulled Yuuto closer to a kiss again.
Yuuto kissed him back. For a moment, he almost lost himself on those lips.
But after a while, he remembered where they were and the reason.
“Do you think you can go in now?” the teacher asked in a low voice.
Seiji looked at the entrance one more time, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Yes,” he said, his voice with some traces of his usual confidence.
Seiji opened the door of the limousine, stepped out and then offered his hand for Yuuto.
The teacher smiled and held those firm fingers and got out of the car.
With another deep breath, the painter turned to the art gallery.
Yuuto smiled as he grabbed his boyfriend’s arm. He looks so cute like this, he thought, checking if his dress was alright once last time.
“Seiji, my boy. We’ve been expecting you,” a blond man said with a thick accent the moment they passed through the door.
He came to greet the painter with a huge smile. When he was close enough, he grabbed Seiji’s face and gave him a kiss on each cheek.
His boyfriend surprised face was too much and Yuuto chuckled.
The blond foreign man turned to the teacher.
“Ah, I’m so glad you brought Yuuno. Everyone was wondering if you’d bring your delightful muse,” he said with the same smile. But instead of kissing Yuuto on both cheeks, he grabbed the teacher’s hand and planted a dry kiss. “It’s a great pleasure meeting the muse who inspired that painting again.”
“Hello, Henri-san. It’s a pleasure to see you again,” Yuuto said, smiling and mustering all the formally he had to hide his surprise.
“I was almost afraid you’d have cold feet,” the foreigner said to Seiji.
The painter’s cheek went a shade of red.
“He was just a little nervous,” Yuuto interfered when he realized his boyfriend had no idea what to say.
“That’s completely normal. All the great artists are like that,” Henri said, his smile broadening. “If they didn’t get nervous, they couldn’t call themselves artists!”
How much wine did he have this time? Yuuto wondered.
Despite the man flashy attitude, the teacher didn’t dislike him. True he only had met the man twice, once as Yuuno and the other as Yuuto, but both times, despite drinking a little too much wine, Henri had been a pleasant and fun company.
“Miss Yuuno, please lend me Seiji for a moment. I’d like to introduce the man of the hour to everyone.”
Before Seiji could say anything, Henri put a hand on the painter’s back and let him to a circle of important looking men and women.
Seiji turned his head to his boyfriend, his eyes wide and his face pale.
But all Yuuto did was smile as his boyfriend was dragged.
He needs to deal with this kind of thing. Especially if he’s gonna be a famous painter…
“That was mean of you,” Seiji whispered to Yuuto once he managed to get away from the foreigner and ran to the bathroom with his boyfriend. “You could’ve helped.”
“Oh, c’mon. It wasn’t that bad… at least from where I was standing.”
“Yeah, maybe for you. I really am bad with this high society stuff,” he said, loosening his tie a little.
“But you look so perfect here.”
Yuuto grabbed Seiji’s arm and turned to face the mirror, his smile widening as he observed their reflection.
Despite the artist insistency, Yuuto decided to come dressed as a girl. He wanted Seiji’s work to be the center of attention, not the fact that the painter was dating another man.
And I made the right call. Look at how we look!
Seiji wore a simple black suit with a white shirt. It may be simple, but there’s a reason why it’s a classic. He looks so handsome it’s hard to believe he’s the same almost shut in artist who barely wear anything at home.
Yuuto had gone with a dark blue long dress that exposed his back with matching high heels. And since the first painting Seiji had painted of him was there, the cosplayer was wearing his long white wig.
We look too good together like this, Yuuto though, his smile broadening.
Then he caught Seiji’s eyes through the mirror.
Only now the teacher had noticed his boyfriend was looking at him the entire time.
“W-what?” he asked, his cheeks a shade of red.
“I wanted you to come as a man, but you look so amazing in that dress,” Seiji said.
Yuuto blushed a little more and twirled a lock of his hair. “Thanks.”
Seiji turned and faced the real Yuuto.
At once the teacher could tell what his boyfriend wanted.
And he wanted the same.
They kissed. But as it grew in passion, Yuuto placed his hands on Seiji’s chest and pushed him gently.
“Not here,” he said in a low voice full of regret. He glanced around despite knowing they were the only ones in the bathroom at the moment.
“Oh, c’mon. You’re dressed like this already. There’s no reason to restrain ourselves.” While looking Yuuto in the eyes, Seiji kissed the cosplayer’s hand. “Let’s take advantage of our dress.”
Yuuto lost himself in those dark eyes. He liked the ticklish feeling of Seiji’s kisses. With a smile, he used that hand to pull the man he loved closer.
They kissed again. Yuuto pushed Seiji against the wall as the kiss became more intense.
But then a loud sound from somewhere far broke their world.
With the regret growing more than ever, the man in the dress shook his head, suppressing all his momentary desires.
Seiji opened his mouth, but then dropped his shoulders.
Pressing his lips, Yuuto brought his boyfriend closer.
“I’ll reward you later,” he whispered into Seiji’s ear. “So much that you won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”
The painter’s face lit with a smile.
Yuuto chuckled. He looks like a kid who can’t wait to play with his toy… wait, does that mean that I’m his toy?
The thought made him blush.
“Don’t make that face, Seiji. You know why we can’t. Just because I’m dressed as a girl, doesn’t mean we don’t have to be careful,” he said, more to suppress his own desire to be with that man right now. “What if someone finds out that I’m a man and that we’re gay? It might ruin your career. That’s the last thing I want.”
“I’m an artist. I think I have a pass to be freer than others,” Seiji said, trying to convince his boyfriend. But soon he realized he wouldn’t change Yuuto’s mind. “Besides, it was okay for Yuuno. You worried so much but many doors open after they found out that Yuuno was a boy who was into guys.”
“For Yuuno, not Yuuto,” the cosplayer reminded him. “Besides, your family will definitely know about this. Do you really want to make things even worse?”
Seiji turned his face. “You don’t have to mention them,” he said, sulking.
“I do. They’re your family. Even if you’re in bad terms, you should’ve invited them.”
“Bad terms? Guess you erased the memory of that dinner… besides, I did invite my family.”
“I mean, not only Seika-san. And I know that she invited herself.”
“How did you…?” Seiji narrowed his eyes. The next moment, his face lit with comprehension. “Yuuka-nee,” he muttered.
“Yes. Our sisters becoming friends has its good points… despite most being awful…”
Both men shredded at the same time.
Seiji pulled Yuuto closer by the hand.
“Let’s put our sisters aside.” He tried to steal a kiss, but the cosplayer noticed and turned his cheek. Seiji chuckled. “You worry too much.”
“I worry too much about you,” he said, burying his face on the man’s chest. “I don’t want anything taking the focus away from your art tonight.”
Seiji caressed the top of Yuuto’s head.
“I thank you for that. If not for you, I’d be a mess… I mean, a lot more than I am now,” he added under Yuuto’s stare.
The teacher stood on his heels to kiss him on the lips.
“Come. We can’t hide in the bathroom all night,” he said, offering a hand. “Let’s face all the critics and the public.”
Seiji flashed a tiny smile as he took that hand.
“Don’t put more pressure on me,” he said in a tired voice.
“I’m not. You’re gonna be a great artist.” Yuuto beamed as he led Seiji to the bathroom door. “Tonight is only a little taste of your future.”
With a deep breath that made no difference to his tense expression, they faced the people who were there to meet the artist.
“See? There was nothing to worry,” Yuuto said after all the formalities and everyone had greeted Seiji and congratulated him for his work.
“I guess… I’m just glad that I got through everything without throwing up.”
“Were you really that nervous?” Yuuto tried but couldn’t hide his smile as he made fun of the man he loved.
“Are you kidding me? As you like to say so often, I’m almost a shut-in artist. How do expect me to talk to all these people?”
“I know you don’t get out a lot now, but I never expected you to be this socially awkward. Didn’t you have like a lot of girlfriends before me and went to this kind of events?”
“First of all, I only had one girlfriend in my entire life. The others were… acquaintances… for the lack of a better word,” Seiji said, averting his eyes with a sheepish smile.
“Yeah, I’m not interested in my boyfriend’s previous girls,” Yuuto said, raising a hand to stop the subject. Seiji smiled and shrugged. “But seriously. Being from the Akaishi family must mean you had a lot of social events like this…”
Seiji let out a tired sigh.
“Yes… but try to imagine being the only one with artistic inclinations in that kind of event. Without great grades or any other more useful talents, as my dear family liked to say, people were more interested in my siblings.”
“You poor rich boy,” Yuuto said, hugging and resting his head on Seiji, half making fun of his boyfriend, half wanting to comfort him for real.
“Yeah, yeah. No one thinks that rich kids have it rough… But being honest… I wished I had met you before…”
Yuuto smiled, but then he chuckled. “Don’t you think that would be weird given our age difference?”
“I realized that the moment I said.” They both laughed.
“Besides… if we had met before, we might have not fallen in love,” Yuuto said in a low voice, his cheeks a shade of red.
“You’re right.” Seiji kissed the top of the cosplayer’s head again.
They walked around, observing the paints that had nothing to do with the exposition.
“Akaishi-kun,” a voice said behind them out of nowhere.
They both turned at the same time. All the romantic and relax mood vanished when Yuuto he recognized his superior.
The short man turned to Yuuto with a puzzled expression.
“Have we met before?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. “You look familiar…”
“She was with me during the ending ceremony,” Seiji added quickly, taking a step forward to get the vice-principal attention.
“Oh, that’s right.” The man’s face lit with a smile. Then he bowed to Yuuto. “How could I forget. Hope you have been well.”
Thank goodness he’s had a few drinks tonight.
But nice one, Seiji, Yuuto thought, the relief filling him. I’ll make sure to give you a little something extra tonight.
“I’ve been well, thank you for asking,” the teacher answered in a high pitch voice.
“Vice-principal. I never thought I’d see you here,” Seiji said to steer the conversation away.
“I’m a lover of arts, but usually I have no time. To my luck, I received the tickets from a friend,” he said with a weird smile. “But I’m surprised to know that you painted all this, Akaishi-kun. I’d never taken you for an artist. I mean, you’ve never shown much interest in the subject during school.”
“Yeah, well…” Seiji glanced at Yuuto and his cheeks went a shade of red. “I just needed the right incentive,” he said, kissing the teacher’s hand
The cosplayer blushed and smiled.
“Agree. Nothing better than the right woman to stir talent,” he said, nodding and smiling at the same time.
Yuuto held his urge to laugh. Yeah, woman…
“Do you remember your art teacher?”
“Miho-sensei? Of course. She never liked to paint that much. Always prefer sculpture or drawing.”
“Yes… some students have whined about that this semester… every year,” he said, shaking his head. “But anyway, she’s moving.”
“That’s too bad. I liked her,” Seiji said, not sounding surprised at all.
He already knows that… but I’d never have thought the vice-principal would appear, Yuuto thought, averting his eyes.
“Yeah, her mother had an accident and she and her husband are moving south to take care of her for a few months.”
“Oh, that’s really bad. Hope she comes back soon.”
“Yes… it was so sudden we’re having trouble looking for a substitute…”
“Hope the new teacher makes as good a job as Miho-sensei.”
“Me too… when we find one…”
The short man’s face suddenly lit as if he had a brilliant idea.
“How about you?” he suggested, his excitement growing. “That would be great How about being the substitute art teacher at your old high school, Akaishi-kun?”
“Eh?” Yuuto said.
Me and Seiji… teaching at the same school…?