: PG-13 (for suggestive material)Genres
: AU (General), mystery, drama, romancePairing
: OhmiyaWord count
: While at a club, a mysterious man gives Nino a business card that says nothing but his name. Who is he, and why are his kisses like drugs made for pleasure?Notes
: I'm stunned that I actually finished this in only a few days, but that's probably because I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning writing most of it. I seem to like this "mystery" genre, and I blame rikke_leonhart
for infecting me with the idea of a...liberal Ohno. Thanks to her and dthnhi
for betas! Be prepared for some unusual characterization and enjoy! :)
"Hit me," he says as he slides onto the barstool.
Nino decides that the owner of such a cool voice is more interesting than his drink for the time being, and he ventures a glance at the newcomer. The club is dim as always so his features aren't so clear, but there's just enough brightness to illuminate important parts of him. His distinctly shaped nose, gravity-defying hairstyle, and his elegantly crafted fingers all have distinguishable contours against the mysterious indigo lighting. The value of the suit he's wearing is impossible to discern, because he's arranged himself in such a state of disarray that it had to have been on purpose. The undone tie and lazy buttoning job might seem sloppy on any other person, but on this particular man, it's perfectly natural.
Time passes, and with each second Nino finds himself more and more enthralled with the stranger sitting next to him. The man doesn't seem to care that Nino and several other people are eyeing him with such intense curiosity, apparently content finding his entertainment in the vacant air.
The barkeep notices the prolonged stares and calls everyone back to reality by subtly slamming a beer mug on the counter.
"Did you want another?" he asks helpfully, pushing the drink toward Nino.
"Yeah--thanks, Jun." He manages to keep his composure, which is a miracle in itself considering the sudden shock.
A little while later, after only a few shots, the stranger Nino was so interested in stands up lethargically from his seat, as if compelled to leave against his will. He pulls out bills directly from his pocket--no wallet to be seen--and leaves them on the counter before going on his way. He seems to hesitate for a moment as he passes Nino, but he says nothing and just continues.
It's only when Nino decides to leave as well that he notices a business card near his glass. He brings it to the attention of the bartender, who then insists that he should identify its contents right away.
"Looks like you've caught his attention," he adds rather ominously.
Nino wants to pursue the details, but he senses that Jun isn’t in a sharing mood. Eager to satisfy his curiosity, he pays his bill in full and rushes outside to a generously lit store window. Upon locating the most luminous spot, he finds the name "Satoshi" typed in the center of the card. No phone number, no address.
* * * * *
Nino spends the majority of the next day trying to discern what exactly he's supposed to do with the card. He examines it from every possible angle he can, suspecting that there might be a hidden message in special ink. During work hours he fervently pesters customers about it, because art geeks can come up with really creative solutions sometimes.
But there's absolutely nothing.
The moon rises and Nino finds himself en route to the same club as yesterday. With any luck that mysterious man will be there.
"It's part of his game," Jun says the moment Nino takes a seat.
Nino doesn't like that the bartender seems to know he's gently clutching the slip of paper inside his pocket.
"It's how he gets you to contact him without revealing his identity."
"…Because in the end the recipient will come back here…"
"But why does he want people to come back--"
"You're about to find out."
Sure enough, Nino feels a hand rest on his shoulder mere seconds later.
"Come with me," whispers a sultry, cool voice that he instantly recognizes.
Nino knows that logically he should get some answers before agreeing to go anywhere with anybody, but once he locks eyes with the mysterious "Satoshi," his mind isn't quite his own anymore. There's not a trace of malice, and he's relieved about that, but at the same time there's so much he doesn't see, things that have been hidden.
Nino's innate curiosity wants him to find out what's hiding inside those eyes, and his body simply obeys.
* * * * *
When he's fully aware of himself again, Nino and Satoshi are alone in a room much dimmer than the club was—if such a state was possible. The walls are black and it's empty except for what is probably a bed pushed over to edge of the space. He doesn't remember exactly how they got there, but it was complicated, to say the least.
"…Why did you bring me here?" he ventures, but regrets opening his mouth when he hears his voice echo.
Satoshi, who is standing only a little more than an arm's length away, moves toward Nino instead of responding. He gets so close that Nino instinctively retreats, which continues until Nino’s back becomes familiar with the drywall. Even though their eyes are locked, Nino can't see a damn thing.
"I thought you were pretty," Satoshi reveals at last, as if it's the most normal thing to say to a man that you've cornered in a dark room with no obvious exit.
The remnants of Nino's breath are lost as he observes Satoshi loosening his tie and casting it aside. His jacket joins it soon after.
"No, seriously, what are--?"
This time Satoshi's lips steal the rest of his breath, and Nino becomes totally helpless, as if a drug is invading his body at an impossible speed. It's unfamiliar, and he concludes that it's a kind of ecstasy he's never tried before.
Then he feels Satoshi's beautifully sculpted fingers exploring his skin, removing any clothing that impedes on their observations. Within minutes, the aggressor's hands move like they own every inch of flesh they touch, and Nino is far too intoxicated to protest.
"I d-don't…understand--" he manages to stutter out as Satoshi burns his neck with his lips.
"You wanted me, and you are
pretty…" As if to seal the comment, he bites a tender patch of skin where Nino's neck and shoulder join. The victim is annoyed for all of a microsecond.
"Who…are you…" Nino can barely breathe anymore as he stumbles to the bed and coerces Satoshi on top of him by tugging his unbuttoned shirt.
"It's a secret."
In the following moments, Nino's mind completely empties; he only feels. A euphoric surge pervades his whole being, a level of pleasure that words can never hope to describe. It makes him so desperately greedy, and when his voice manages to navigate through his ragged breaths, it can say but a single word.
* * * * *
There's no way for Nino to discern what time it is when he wakes; the room is still as dark as he remembers. Has it been several hours already? Or maybe it’s only been a few minutes--he doesn't know.
He tries to orient himself by sitting up, and in doing so becomes aware of a shadow coming toward him.
"Hi," greets Satoshi, whose eloquence continues to surprise. He's dressed except for some loose buttons on his shirt and the undone tie slung around his neck.
"What time is it?" Nino expects him to know, because he apparently has somewhere to be.
"About four in the morning."
A sense of relief washes over Nino when he remembers he opted for the afternoon shift today. But as he takes inventory of his current predicament, that feeling quickly gives way to a dreadful anxiety.
"What did you drug me with?" he demands, self-consciously pulling the blanket above his waist.
"I didn't give you anything." There's such a genuine innocence in Satoshi's voice as he says this that Nino almost believes him. But when he considers that he's never just given
himself to someone, he insists on it.
"Nice try, but I think I'm entitled to know."
Wordlessly, Satoshi uses a hand to tilt Nino's face upward so their lips can meet again. The rush makes Nino sigh into the sudden kiss, and he begs for a few more before his mysterious lover pulls away.
"See? I don't need
to use anything."
Nino is breathless, a feeling he became accustomed to earlier. "How do you…do that?"
"It's just how I am… Never really thought that far into it."
"…I'm guessing you do this often."
"When I have to, yeah."
"It's…part of my work."
"What? Are you a pimp or something?"
Satoshi laughs at this, and Nino is surprised that it sounds more childish than sinister.
"That's a new one."
"Then what are you? Or, at least, who
After some hesitation, Satoshi sits by Nino's side on the bed.
He looks out into space as he speaks. "I'm--"
A loud vibration cuts through the air, and Satoshi immediately fishes into his pocket for his cell phone.
"Hello," he greets into the device. "…Yes, I'm leaving now. Sorry to make you wait."
"Another date?" asks Nino sarcastically as he watches Satoshi get up and finish straightening himself out.
"It's not what you're thinking."
"How do you know what I'm thinking? You don't even know what my name is."
"…That's not fair. How did you--"
"There's someone outside that will take you home. I've really gotta go."
Just when Satoshi opens the door Nino didn't even know was there, he calls to him.
The mysterious man stops and says flatly, "Sorry… I don't make a habit of seeing the same person twice. …It's bad for business."
And he vanishes.
* * * * *
“It was you, wasn’t it?” It takes all of Nino’s self-control to not explode at Jun. “You
told him my name.”
“And your point is…?”
“Why the hell would you give out my identity to a man that doesn’t even have a last name?!”
“It’s your name, not your credit card information. He always asks for names.”
“No idea. I’ve asked him, but he always finds a way out of answering it.”
“He seems to do that a lot.”
Jun nods knowingly while polishing a glass, and Nino begins to seriously ponder his relationship to Satoshi.
“You work with him, don’t you?”
“Names are the only things we talk about—besides his, of course. I know as much about him as you do, honestly.”
“…Did you two ever--?” A cold glare stops Nino mid-sentence (a remarkable feat in itself), and the subject is dropped.
“So… you just go along with what he asks?” the customer continues after a sip of his drink.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed…” Jun stops what he’s doing and locks eyes with Nino. “He’s not a man you can easily refuse.”
A tinge of color warms Nino’s cheeks as he recalls his last conversation with Satoshi. His lips start to tickle at the memory of it, and he quickly downs another gulp of beer to make the sensations stop.
“If I were you, I’d forget about him,” the bartender suggests.
“Why? I mean…this is his base of operations, right? There’s no way I won’t see him.”
“That’s what everyone says. But really, when Satoshi wants to disappear, he just does it.”
“You said he always asks you for names!”
“I’m not the only bartender that works here, genius. Look, I’m telling you, just save yourself the trouble: forget him.”
* * * * *
Nino prides himself in being an adaptive person, someone who goes with the flow rather than disturbing it. He’s never had much personal ambition, so once he’s found a way of living that works, he won’t go out of his way to change it. If something happens, it happens, but he won’t make
So, why does he intentionally go to that same club every night after work?
At first he thinks that it’s because he wants to prove Jun wrong, which seems like it would be extremely satisfying. Then, as days become weeks, he starts to think that this is too much effort just to make a point.
Jun hides his pity in a mask of harsh criticism, sometimes even snapping at the persistent customer to intimidate him into leaving. Nino will never admit how grateful he is for that, because on some nights he feels like his heart will be squeezed out of existence.
Still, he comes back.
Usually Nino just sits at the bar, waiting. Other times he gets more adventurous and actually explores the rest of the establishment. There are moments when he feels like he’s being watched, but that’s probably just his own wishful thinking. Whenever he tries to find that pair of eyes, the feeling disappears.
One night, during the third week, Nino sees him. He’s far away, being relentlessly harassed by a woman who’s clearly had too much to drink. Nino practically leaps off the barstool and makes a beeline for the distracted Satoshi.
Before Nino gets too far, the lady is apprehended by some friends and thereby frees Satoshi to wander away. When he sees him disappear around a corner, Nino is running.
He isn’t fast enough.
The main dance floor greets him on the other side, and he doubts that he could even identify his own mother in such a crowd. He tries anyway, pushing past bodies lathered in sweat searching for anything
“Please stop.” The voice is whispering, but somehow it’s louder than the rave music blasting from the speakers. “You’re hurting yourself.”
Nino spins in haphazard circles trying with all his might to find the speaker, but he’s already gone. Even as dancers touch him incidentally or push him, he can’t help feeling so hopelessly alone.
After that night, Nino’s visits to the club lessen significantly. He likes to blame it on Jun’s now blatant sympathy, since being around him just makes Nino feel even more pathetic.
But really, it’s because he’s tired. Tired of waiting for something that won’t happen; tired of waiting for someone that won’t show up; tired of being a stubborn idiot. The fatigue makes his heart so numb he’s not even sure it’s there anymore.
“How many people has this happened to?” he thinks as he looks into the mirror one morning. “How many hearts have been broken like this?”
Nino stops going.
* * * * *
Weeks go by, and Nino feels like his ordinary life is falling back into place again. Even though working at an art store was not his vision of himself when he was younger, it’s tough times like these that make him thankful for a mundane job. He’s also thankful for co-workers that know how to handle him.
When he senses that Nino is more stable, one such coworker asks, “Hey, you wanna play baseball this weekend?”
“Yeah, Aiba, that sounds good.” Nino manages a weak smile, but Aiba acts as if the sun got ten times brighter.
“Great! It’s been awhile since we’ve played, huh?”
Aiba looks like he wants to say something else, but a customer occupies his attention.
Recognizing the voice as his manager’s, Nino turns around and replies, “Yes, Nagase-san?”
“D’you think you could distribute these flyers?” he continues, handing the subordinate a stack of papers. “Put a few in the windows and then just make stacks around the store.”
“What’s it for?”
“An upcoming art exhibition. It’s a pretty new artist, but the media likes him ‘cause he’s super secretive. They say even Sakurai from News Zero is reporting on it.”
Nino raises an eyebrow. “Who’s the artist?”
“No one’s seen him before, apparently, but he signs all of his works as ‘Ohno’.”
He’s not sure why, but Nino feels his chest get just a little bit heavier.
* * * * *
At the end of the day, Nino takes one of the flyers home with him. There are no pictures of the artwork because it’ll be the first time this collection is shown to the public. The only thing that really resembles art is the graffiti font the name “Ohno” has been painted in, and even to someone as dense about art as Nino, it’s interesting. He doesn’t particularly plan on going, but decides there’s no harm in having the information.
Sure enough, on a Sunday a few weeks later, Nino realizes that it’s the last day of the exhibition. He has nothing planned and he’s already beaten his newest DS game, so he figures he might as well go. It had actually been in and out of his mind since he brought the flyer home, but in the end he didn’t bother to follow any reports on it at all.
“I’ll just be surprised,” he thinks as he locks his apartment behind him.
By the time he gets to the exhibition hall, the guards caution him that there’s only an hour remaining. He shrugs, not feeling terribly pressured because he came here on a whim, anyway. If anything he’d glance at the first few works and be on his way.
That plan falls to pieces the moment he enters the main gallery.
There’s quite an array of paintings, all featuring human subjects. Each person seems to follow the same general structure based on their gender, but it’s the smaller details that make them unique. One picture is of a lady whose smile reaches all the way to her sparkling eyes. The one next to it is a similar looking woman who is also smiling, but it's a little crooked. Her eyes look empty.
As Nino goes from painting to painting, he can’t help but feel that they’re more than just canvases with pigment on them. The fact that each piece is named for a person only adds to this. “Kaoru,” “Takumi,” “Minako”—the titles go on. The only thing exactly in common with all of the works is the small “Ohno” written in humble calligraphy at the bottom right.
Nino goes through the entire room, and he’s admittedly disappointed that there isn’t more. Just as he is about to exit the gallery, he notices a corridor that leads into another lit area. Hoping that it’s more artwork, he walks through.
All at once breathing becomes a foreign concept to him. In a total state of panic, he checks every single placard.
Kazunari. They all say Kazunari, followed by a Roman numeral.
It takes a few minutes, but eventually Nino restarts his lungs and very slowly walks over to the first piece. It’s not a perfectly accurate representation of him, because his face resembles the other male subjects, but there’s a quality in his eyes that is so life-like, it frightens him. Each painting shows a slightly different emotion, or a variant of the same one, and he can’t help but feel so vulnerable, like his heart has been put up for everyone to see.
When he gets to the last painting, it hits him.
“This is…!””It’s…part of my work,”
he had said.
As Nino looks at all of the renditions of himself and remembers the subjects in the other room, he understands everything. How the artist chooses strangers on purpose; how he gets them to give their heart to him; how he returns it to them by painting it on a canvas.
“…Ohno…Satoshi…” The words make him smile.
The next night, Nino goes back to the club.
* * * * *
Even with his heart restored to him, Nino can’t help feeling anxious as he slides onto the barstool. He’s learned not to expect anything, but more than any other night, he wants something to happen now.
While he’s scanning the perimeter he hears a glass being slid over to him.
“Thanks, Jun,” Nino says automatically, not even bothering to look.
He takes the glass and tilts his head back to drink the contents, but no liquid comes out. Instead, a business card bounces off his lips.
“Eh?!” Nino pulls the glass back and removes the stiff slip of paper with his fingers. It’s blank.
“Jun, what the hell?!” the customer demands, finally looking up at the bartender.
His throat tightens when his eyes meet the gaze that’s impossible for him to read.
“Jun’s not here,” he says in that serene voice. “Did you want to tell him something?”
“Y-You…you’re—“ Nino stops, taking a moment to compose himself better. “You’re that artist, right?”
Satoshi smiles. “You went to the exhibition.”
“I did, and it’s…great, but—” He has to pause again, because he’s not sure what kind of answer he wants. “Why…are there so many of me?”
“Yours were the most popular, you know. Sakurai-san was raving about them on the news.”
“Don’t avoid the question! …Just tell me.”
The smile fades, and Satoshi’s face twitches as he searches for the right words.
“You were here so many times…more than anyone else. I saw so much of your heart… And, well, I thought one painting wouldn’t be enough.”
Nino has to try so hard not to laugh. To think that such a brilliant man, who can translate other people’s feelings so accurately, doesn’t have the confidence to express his own views.
“I understand if you’re angry,” the artist continues obliviously. “I—”
“It’s okay. I can tell your…work is very important to you.” Nino holds up the blank business card. “Now, what’s this for?”
As if he was prepared to hear that question, Satoshi places a lemon on the counter.
“Use it when you get home.”
And before Nino can ask him why, he brings two drinks to a couple sitting at the other side of the bar and then disappears into a back room.
Having learned from his past mistakes, Nino doesn’t wait to leave. As soon as he arrives home, he slices the citrus open and squeezes the juice onto both sides of the card.
He waits, squirming impatiently.
After a few moments, something becomes visible. It’s very faint at first, but becomes clearer as the lemon dries.
One side is a phone number, and the other is an address.