Moment, by kishmet. AU, Tezuka/Ryoma, PG(-13ish?), 4000 words. Written in like two crazed hours for pillarchallenge's latest prompt, which means, of course, that this is a modeling AU. There's more to this fic, probably, just like there's still more to my AU Japanese idol!Ryoma FujiRyo fic, but goodness only knows if the rest will ever be written. If there is, it will include catwalks and Tezuka's uber-dramatic back story! Er, yeah.
“You’re Tezuka Kunimitsu?”
Tezuka doesn’t mean to look away from the camera to reply, but he can’t help himself. Something in the voice draws him in, compels him. “Yes, I am,” he says to the most beautiful boy he’s ever seen.
“Oh,” says the boy, and looks him up and down with those gold eyes that are almost too surreal to be true. Then the boy meets his eyes again, his expression bored already even though they’ve been talking for less than a minute. “I thought you’d be taller.”
This boy is at least a foot shorter than Tezuka, probably more. The absurdity would make Tezuka laugh, if he were the laughing type. “I’m not,” he says. “And I’m in the middle of a shoot.”
“Fine.” Already the boy is walking away, swaggering with his jacket draped over his shoulder as though he’s already on the runway.
Tezuka turns back to the camera for a moment, and then he turns away again. “Your name,” he commands, and the boy’s gaze flickers back to him, whether startled by the tone or by the words, Tezuka doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter.
“Echizen Ryoma,” the boy replies, and is gone, distracting the makeup artists with his tight clothing and perfect, symmetrical features.
Tezuka hears of the boy again while he’s eating lunch with Oishi, one of the costume designers he’s worked with on nearly every shoot. “Eiji says he’s found someone who might work for the Valentino shoot,” Oishi is saying, while Tezuka stirs the cream into his coffee and contemplates poses. Valentino will want something fresh but classic, which most people would call an impossibility. Tezuka doesn’t call it anything. He just does it.
“Echizen Ryoma, I think?” Oishi says, and Tezuka looks up sharply. “Eiji says he’ll be perfect, but you know how Eiji will exaggerate when he’s made friends with someone. Tezuka, are you all right?”
“He’s not exaggerating this time,” Tezuka says.
“Oh.” Oishi stares at him. “Then you’ve met Echizen Ryoma?”
“Yes,” says Tezuka. “Once.”
Once is not often enough to know that a model could be perfect. With Echizen Ryoma, it is more than enough.
“You again,” says Echizen, sauntering carelessly past Tezuka to the dressing rooms. He creates a sphere of silent awe around him in the midst of the bustle and chatter that always accompanies a photo shoot, especially one for the more prominent designers and magazines.
Tezuka doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t usually see the models until they’re dressed and ready, which means that Echizen has made an effort to come through this way. Tezuka can’t say yet what this means, but he watches after Echizen, watches the errand boys and the assistants scuttle out of his way before he can say so much as ‘Excuse me, please.’
Not, Tezuka thinks to himself, that he could imagine Echizen saying such a thing anyway.
Echizen doesn’t wait for directions; he plops himself into the fabric-draped chair and lounges there. He wears an expression of indifference until he turns his head lazily and looks at Tezuka right through the lens of the camera. Echizen is different when he’s in his makeup and the casual suit. The eyeliner and lip gloss are perfect, subtle and dark, enhanced by the ruffled shock of black hair. He’s more polished but at the same time, the refinement and Echizen’s devil-may-care attitude create discord. Artistic discord, but discord nevertheless.
Then Echizen smirks, just for Tezuka, and Tezuka finds his finger unconsciously reaching for the camera’s shutter button. But…
“No,” says Tezuka sharply.
Echizen’s mask drops for a split second as he blinks, confused by the sudden interruption where he hadn’t been expecting it. Then he raises an eyebrow and tips his head back. “No?”
“No,” says Tezuka, with stern confidence that comes not from arrogance but from experience, years of it. Echizen is used to getting his own way. Tezuka is used to being listened to. The two are not compatible, not yet. “You will receive instructions. Wait for them.”
Echizen doesn’t scowl, but his eyes narrow as he stares measuringly at Tezuka. “What if I do everything right without them?”
Tezuka looks back, impassive but immovable. “You won’t,” he says, and turns to his assistant before he can see Echizen’s expression of indignant disbelief.
“Echizen wasn’t pleased today,” says Inui, pausing in his constant scribbling of notes in order to make sure Tezuka is paying attention. “Fuji says that he did nothing but sulk during the break.”
Tezuka suspects that Echizen may have done that regardless of Tezuka’s actions. “He has to learn,” Tezuka replies.
“I sent the preliminary shots to the agency.” Inui makes another note. “They approve of the models, particularly Echizen. They want to use him in a double-page spread, if possible.”
That statement is pointed, telling Tezuka not to alienate a model who’s already been approved, and more than approved, judging by the agency’s reaction. Tezuka has sent other models fleeing in tears, or demanding that their contracts be renegotiated for a higher salary, or, most often, disappearing from the industry altogether.
Echizen won’t be one of those, or else Echizen doesn’t have what it takes.
“That’s fine,” says Tezuka.
Inui pauses again. “Tezu-”
“It’s fine,” Tezuka interrupts him, and that is the last word on the subject. Echizen will be back, or he won’t, and if he isn’t then the shoot doesn’t need him anyway.
Later, late at night when he’s looking at the preliminary shots on his own, in the dark of his room with only his desk lamp on, Tezuka gazes at Echizen’s rebellious, perfect glower. If Echizen doesn’t show up for the shoot tomorrow, Valentino will find another model. There are so many who would sell their own mothers for the chance, and Tezuka knows that one of them will be acceptable.
He also knows that none of them will be Echizen.
“Tezuka, what if he’s not-” Oishi begins, nervously stitching a tear in a jacket.
“He is,” says Tezuka. “His clothing is prepared?”
“Yes, it is, but…” Oishi trails off because Tezuka is sure, and when Tezuka is sure there can be no question. Inui questions anyway, giving Tezuka a significant glance from across the set. Tezuka does not hold his gaze. He doesn’t have to.
Echizen walks in twenty minutes late to the shoot, looking like he knows the world revolves around him. He stops abruptly when he sees that Tezuka is already taking pictures of the other models, all of whom showed up on time.
“Next time you’re late, you won’t be working,” Tezuka tells him, without looking away from the camera. “Go and get dressed.”
Echizen obeys, much to Inui’s obvious consternation. He has his head down and is writing furiously as Echizen walks by him to the dressing rooms.
Tezuka almost allows himself a smile, but holds himself in check at the last second.
He thinks he’s alone after the shoot, as he disassembles his camera and packs each piece carefully away into the soft indented material of the case, which has a place for every component. There is a separate case for the lenses, and for some of the smaller parts. Tezuka has had this camera for a very long time; it’s older than some of the higher-tech, brand-new models, but it’s just as functional and worth even more, over forty-five thousand American dollars.
Tezuka glances up as Echizen perches on the arm of the chair they’d used for part of the shoot. “You know cameras?”
“Some.” Echizen shrugs as though he doesn’t care one way or the other. “I’m photographed all the time, so why shouldn’t I?”
“Not everyone knows everything about all aspects of their profession.”
“Only if they’re stupid,” says Echizen. He stretches casually, his leg moving too close to Tezuka’s. “You know about being a model, don’t you?”
Tezuka looks at him. “Yes, I do.” He finishes packing his camera and stands up, lifting the heavy case. He’s accustomed to its weight; all good cameras are solid, and his is one of the best. This is why he’s surprised when he has to exert less effort than usual.
Echizen grins at him, holding the other end of the case. “These things are heavy.”
“Yes,” Tezuka agrees, pauses, then adds, “Thank you.”
Echizen heads in the opposite direction as soon as they’re outside, flicking a look back at Tezuka over his shoulder. Their eyes meet and then Tezuka is walking to his car, trying to think practical thoughts about Valentino and Inui’s notes and what poses he’ll use if the agency wants more pictures. He tries not to think of Echizen except as what he is, a model and a coworker he will probably never see again.
He succeeds, for the most part.
“Echizen came to the shoot,” says Inui.
“Yes, he did,” says Tezuka, wondering why Inui calls him at two-thirty in the morning just to state the obvious. “What do you need, Inui?”
“Well, if current market trends continue in the same upward direction they have been tending toward, as I have no reason to assume they will not, Echizen’s most lucrative prospects in his career field will intersect with-”
Tezuka cuts him off. “It’s late, Inui. Good night.”
Tezuka hangs up.
Two weeks pass by in their usual blur. He shoots an advertisement for a pharmaceutical company, one of the lesser-known fashion lines, and a department store. The models are what they are paid to be: living dolls meant to enhance the appeal of the product. Tezuka is what he is paid to be as well: a photographer who enhances the best qualities of model and product through his art. Of course, he is slightly less essential in this age of computer technology and airbrushing. Looking at it from that angle, the models themselves are hardly essential anymore. Most of them convey about as much of an air of realism as an image created entirely on the computer.
“You know, I barely had to airbrush anything from Echizen’s shoot,” Fuji tells him one day, seemingly at random. “I wasn’t surprised though. The two of you work well together.”
“Only a stain on the chair’s fabric, and you couldn’t help that. I can’t believe Oishi didn’t notice that one beforehand, but don’t tell him.” Fuji puts a finger to his lips, smiling. “He’ll worry too much next time, and it’s nothing the software can’t fix, with a few seconds’ work.”
“I won’t tell him,” Tezuka replies, and looks at Fuji. “You had a point to make?”
“Did I?” With that, Fuji leaves, going back to his computer where they can edit the digital pictures only moments after they’re taken.
Tezuka generally keeps old pictures filed away in sequential order for future reference. Most of them never see the light of day again. He brings out the pictures of Echizen that evening, though, looking through them, comparing the originals and the retouched versions. In both, Echizen’s haughty confidence is the same. Tezuka can’t see the stain on the chair in any of the pictures, but he trusts Fuji’s judgment and knows it’s there.
To be more honest, he can’t look away from Echizen for long enough to find any stains.
Echizen will never, Tezuka thinks, be signed on for any of the smaller companies. He would be too much for them. He would eclipse the product instead of highlighting it.
Tezuka has no larger shoots scheduled. It will be a long time before he sees Echizen again, if he ever does.
Even Tezuka can be wrong on occasion.
The agency is holding auditions for a half-page toothpaste spread. Tezuka is here because Oishi has his choice of clothing for the shoot, and Oishi will deliberate forever if left to his own devices, wondering whether that one would look better in the fleece or if he should use that one in a tank top instead. Oishi’s decision isn’t the only factor in the final choice of model, but those he likes are chosen more often than not.
And there is Echizen, standing in line with the other hopefuls, creating a space around him where the other contenders have edged away to stare and whisper. “Isn’t that Echizen?” Oishi asks, startled. “What is he doing here?”
“I don’t know.” Tezuka walks through the crowd, giving a word or two to the ones who recognize him and think he’s actually part of the decision-making process. Oishi doesn’t follow, just peers anxiously after him, as puzzled as Tezuka by the idea that Echizen would lower himself to auditioning for a toothpaste ad. He stops in front of Echizen, who’s seen him and is waiting, his posture expectant. “What are you doing here?” Tezuka asks quietly.
“Auditioning,” says Echizen.
Echizen shrugs, nonchalant. “I heard that you’d be here.”
Tezuka nods slowly, and then says, “You won’t be hired for this one.”
“I might be.”
Tezuka is right. Echizen doesn’t get the job, because Echizen is made for high fashion and perhaps a future career in acting, not for toothpaste.
Echizen does, however, get Tezuka’s personal phone number. Tezuka gets a promise that Echizen will call and a slight grin.
“You’re looking for more work opportunities, then?” Oishi asks, once he comes over to join them.
Echizen never looks away from Tezuka. “That too.”
Tezuka answers and makes fifty or more phone calls per day, and that, he thinks wryly, is only counting the calls that come from Inui and Oishi. He shouldn’t feel trepidation when his cell phone lights up, chiming the notes of the Blue Danube to alert him of the incoming call. The caller ID says only “Cellular Call,” but Tezuka knows who it is anyway.
He flips the phone open. “Yes?”
“I would have been in that toothpaste ad if they’d hired me, you know.”
“Yes.” Tezuka can hear Echizen’s grin through the phone. “Since you were the photographer, I would have been.”
“They never would have hired you,” Tezuka tells him.
“Why?” Echizen asks, as though he doesn’t know. “Eiji told me that I should try for it.”
Eiji is a good talent scout, but he likes Echizen and has an odd fondness for toothpaste, which may have biased his decision somewhat. Tezuka can’t say this, so he says, “You know better,” which is true.
“Why do I know better?”
Echizen is trying to force Tezuka to tell him that he’s too good for toothpaste ads, that he should be doing full-page spreads instead of tiny cheap things by discount brands. A fleeting smile crosses Tezuka’s face, but he keeps it out of his voice when he responds. “You should,” he says sternly. “If you don’t, then-”
“Then I’m not good enough,” Echizen finishes. “But I’m too good, and I do know better.”
Tezuka can’t help it anymore. “Yes.”
“Even when I don’t follow orders?”
“But you do, now,” Tezuka points out.
“Only yours,” says Echizen. “I still don’t listen to anyone else.”
“You should,” says Tezuka.
“They’ll hire me anyway,” says Echizen carelessly. “You’re the only one who won’t.”
“So you want me to hire you?”
“I don’t know.” Echizen pauses. “Are you going to?”
Tezuka finds himself saying “yes” without even a moment’s hesitation.
The Dolce & Gabbana shoot is perfect, except that Echizen is looking directly at him the entire time, looking as though he knows exactly what Tezuka is thinking. He probably does. For his part, Echizen doesn’t bother concealing his thoughts. He is arrogance, and confidence, and perfection, and he knows exactly what he’s doing to Tezuka.
“I’ll call you later,” Echizen whispers, not-so-accidentally brushing against Tezuka on his way out, jacket slung over his shoulder just as it had been that first time.
Everyone calls Tezuka all the way to the agency and all the way back home. The phone is still ringing as Tezuka puts his camera away and starts making a light supper for himself. Inui has called thirteen times, Oishi has called eight, and Fuji has called once. The agency has also called; Tezuka will call them back later. He settles down on the couch for the first moment of relaxation he’s had all day. Echizen is perfect. Tezuka knows this. He doesn’t need everyone calling him to tell him so.
His phone rings again.
Now he has the phone number programmed in, and the display comes up with ECHIZEN RYOMA. Tezuka has to sip at his tea before picking it up so that the tea won’t spill over the edge of the cup when he sets it down. Then he puts the cup on the coffee table, on a coaster so that it won’t leave a ring, and answers the phone. “Echizen.”
“Tezuka.” Echizen is smirking, Tezuka can hear it in his tone. “I was perfect today.”
“So I’ve been told,” says Tezuka, dryly amused.
“Fuji says the studio will be free tomorrow,” says Echizen, too casually.
“Will you be there?” Echizen asks.
“I don’t know,” says Tezuka, quelling the quick bright fluttering of his heart with slow, deep breaths. “Will you?”
Echizen is silent for a second or two, and then he says, his voice low and meant only for Tezuka, “Yes.”
Tezuka brings his photography equipment with him, because he’s not sure, not yet, and perhaps… perhaps they should have a lens between them, at least at first. He considers bringing one of the smaller cameras and decides against it. The Mamiya will be heavier, but it’s worth the extra effort. Without his willing it, he remembers when Echizen helped him with the camera, telling him that it was a good one. He hadn’t expected it from a cocky young model, but then, he hadn’t expected to find Echizen again at an audition for a toothpaste ad, of all things. He’d never expected to find Echizen in the first place.
“You brought the camera,” says Echizen, from the shadowy, unaccustomed quiet of the empty set. “Good.” He steps out of the shadows, stepping into the sunlight like a wraith turning into an angel, not that Echizen has the disposition of an angel by anyone’s standards. “You know how to do makeup?” Echizen asks, a challenge more than a query.
“Yes,” says Tezuka, “I do.”
And he does. He leads Echizen to the chair and sorts through the various compacts and containers that Echizen must have brought here for him. He kneels in front of Echizen and immediately turns professional and efficient. “Hold still,” he commands, when Echizen starts to turn his head. “I’ll tell you when to move.”
“Che. Fine.” Echizen obeys while Tezuka applies the foundation to his face, a very light layer of it. When Tezuka starts on the eyeliner, Echizen tilts his head just a little. Tezuka catches his cheek in one hand. “No,” he says firmly.
Echizen’s rebellious look does not fade, but he doesn’t move again. Tezuka is gentle but unyielding, and Echizen presents an artistic canvas unlike any other. He finishes, leaning close to Echizen’s face so that no detail will be missed. Their breath mingles, Echizen’s sweet, scented like grape soda. “You’re finished,” says Tezuka softly.
“Not yet I’m not,” Echizen replies. “Come on.” He’s out of the chair in one smooth motion, but he waits for Tezuka, not slipping his hand into Tezuka’s, not yet, but walking so close that the tiny hairs on the back of Tezuka’s hand stand on end.
It’s not a bad thing.
The set itself is empty, but there’s a low couch off to one side, white and plain, draped with a sheet so that the couch won’t gather dust. Tezuka points to it, and Echizen goes, stopping beside the couch to look at him inquiringly. “Lie on your side, facing me,” Tezuka directs, still in his element. He knows how to do this. He might not know what Echizen wants, at least not always, but he’s a photographer first and foremost. He busies himself, moving the lights, positioning them and switching them on. He uses two at first, but then turns one of them off because he wants a more natural look for this shot. The sunlight coming in through the high windows gives Echizen a bright halo, in stark contrast to his dark hair.
Tezuka adjusts the lens, zooming in on Echizen’s face, noting every peculiarity and irregularity, not that there are many. “Lean up on your arm,” he says. “That way. Yes.” He snaps a shot and zooms back out, taking a longer shot. Then he stops, thinking.
“What now?” Echizen asks, impatient because Tezuka’s taking too long, by his estimation.
“Patience,” says Tezuka, and then, “Do as you like.” He wants to see what Echizen will do, given the freedom to pose as he chooses.
“As I like?” The smirk warns Tezuka of what is to come. Echizen slips off of the couch and walks toward him, hips swaying as though he’s on a catwalk. Tezuka can’t help himself. The photos come quickly and easily, and they’re going to be perfect, he can tell.
Then Echizen is no longer there, through the lens, because he’s there, threading his arms around Tezuka’s neck instead, murmuring, “You said I could do as I like.”
“I did,” Tezuka acknowledges, and then he’s kissing Echizen before Echizen can kiss him, leaning down because of the difference between their heights and pulling Echizen possessively closer.
Echizen stumbles as they sidestep awkwardly past the camera, something no one could probably ever predict either of them would do. He curses, but Tezuka catches him and somehow they make it to the couch without upsetting anything. Echizen is slipping his glasses off and Tezuka is undoing the buttons on Echizen’s shirt, thinking that if he could, he would be here and behind the camera, because Echizen is flushed and beautiful this way.
Then he stops wishing he was anywhere else at all.
He falls asleep at some point, although he doesn’t remember doing so. He blinks, drowsy at first, his vision blurred because he’s not wearing his glasses. It takes him only a moment to recognize Echizen, and only a moment more to focus his eyes enough that he can see tolerably well, though without his glasses his eyesight will never be flawless. Echizen is grinning, though, grinning at Tezuka from behind the camera and looking less perfect than before, or he would, with his hair mussed and his makeup smeared and only Tezuka’s long shirt to preserve any semblance of modesty.
“Can I?” Echizen asks, holding a hand out to the camera and stopping just short of touching it.
Tezuka has never let anyone else use the camera before. He shifts, and nods. “Yes.” He reaches for his glasses, which, if he recalls correctly, are on the arm of the couch behind his head.
“Don’t move,” Echizen instructs sharply, and then his voice turns teasing. “I’ll tell you when you can.”
“I need my glasses,” says Tezuka.
“Hm.” Echizen considers. “All right, fine. Only because I like you in them,” he adds.
Tezuka gives Echizen a look of amusement, and then he finds his glasses and slips them on, changing positions as little as possible. His eyes focus again, slowly because he’s woken up so recently. He sees Echizen’s dark lip gloss, smudged and gone in places. His own lips probably don’t look much better, and he reaches a hand up to touch them, to wipe away as much of the gloss as he can.
“No, don’t.” Echizen shakes his head. “I want you like this.”
Tezuka lowers his hand, contenting himself with a quick brush of his tongue over his lips. He’s been wondering what this will be, whether it will be one day and no more, another affair, a fling with another model, as most photographers seem to have so often. It’s Echizen, but that is no guarantee of anything, or so Tezuka has been telling himself. But then Ryoma grins, a slow smile that Tezuka has never seen before, whether from behind the camera or elsewhere.
Tezuka feels himself give an answering smile just before the flash goes off, and it is then that he stops wondering.