Alex Gabriel

Writer. Reader. Romancer.

Exclusive Preview of “Walk the Walk”

Walk the Walk

A Learning How to Lose Short Story


TV Fan 02 2013

What kind of character do you want to play for your next drama?
Takahashi Hiroshi: There are so many to choose from! I’d love to be in another historical drama. Maybe there’ll be one with fantasy elements this time – it’d be so much fun to play an onmyoji, for example. Or if it’s a contemporary drama, how about a thriller? I could be a bad guy this time… someone shady and mysterious. (laughs) Someone with a bit of an edge, anyway!

TV Guide 02 2013

What type of role would you like to tackle next?
Shiwasuda Ryuu: I like playing family men a lot. That’s because I’m a family person myself, of course. But I also like roles that challenge me and make me push myself – roles that are different from what I’ve done before, and also different from me. Then I really have to think hard about who my character is, and how to play him.


By the time Ryuu finds the car and threads through the confusing tangle of one-way streets, Hiro’s paid. He’s out in front of the restaurant, all smiles and nods, talking to some wildly gesticulating guy in a suit.

Ryuu snorts as he pulls over. Can’t leave the man alone for two minutes without him striking up a friendship. It’d be ridiculous if it weren’t so absurdly Hiro.

Hiro nods at his new buddy one last time, and Ryuu waits for him to detach himself. Suit guy just keeps talking, though, and Hiro doesn’t move.

After a moment, he looks over to Ryuu with an apologetic little shrug that says sorry to make you wait, but I can’t just leave in the middle of this guy burbling at me, can I?

Uhm, hello? He so can.

As a small hint, Ryuu leans across to the passenger side and pushes open the door.

“No, not so far,” Hiro’s saying. He’s friendly and smiley and everything, but Ryuu can tell he’s not fully on board with the conversation. Which is unusual enough in itself that suit guy should take it as the strongest possible suggestion to shut his trap. Okay, Ryuu guesses the guy doesn’t know Hiro that well, but still.

“Anyway, I have to go.” Hiro gestures towards Ryuu as an explanation.

Suit guy turns and sees Ryuu waiting in the car. The man’s movements are oddly exaggerated and overly careful; between that and the way he frowns in laborious thought, it’s obvious he’s had a few drinks more than was wise.

Finally, finally, Hiro steps back and nods a polite farewell. Not before time, either. “It was great meeting you, sir. Have a nice evening!”

Wow, that only took about ten times as long as necessary.

Oh well, Hiro will be Hiro. And they do have the rest of the night ahead of them, so there’s no particular hurry. It’s just that the restaurant had candlelight and shit, and Hiro was all bright eyes, soft smiles and stupid puns, so — well. Ryuu kind of wants to be alone with those bright eyes, soft smiles and stupid puns. Have them all to himself.

“Hey, you, just what do you think you’re about? No way, you’re — I was here first!”

Drunken-ass suit guy has followed Hiro and grabbed his arm.

What the fuck?

Afterwards, Ryuu has no memory of jumping out of the car. One moment, he’s in the driver’s seat; the next, he’s standing right next to Hiro and the drunk asshole.

Hiro’s blinking at him uncertainly, which says something about the expression on Ryuu’s face. Drunk asshole is looking at him belligerently, which says something about drunk asshole’s lack of intelligence.

Up close, the guy’s so utterly ordinary that Ryuu’s wild visions of kidnappers and dangerous drug addicts desert him. He’s just a staid, jowly middle-aged salaryman reeking of schochu. His hairline is receding, and he looks pitiful more than anything, all bleary bloodshot eyes and rumpled clothes.

So instead of shoving the man to the ground, Ryuu restricts himself to glaring pointedly at his hand, which is still clutching Hiro’s arm.

Hints are wasted on this guy, though. After a moment, Hiro gives a slightly nervous laugh and plucks off the encroaching hand himself. “Uhm, right. Like I said, have a nice night.”

Ryuu’s ready when the guy tries to follow Hiro. If basic politeness had any meaning for the man, he’d never have grabbed Hiro in the first place.

Drunk asshole doesn’t quite stumble into Ryuu when he blocks his path, but it’s a close thing. To top it off, he’s all huffy indignation. “That’s no kind of manners!”

Wow, look who’s talking! Ryuu scowls his darkest scowl, but the guy just straightens slightly, staggering back half a step. Muzzy moral outrage surrounds him like a haze. “You hoodlums — no manners. That’s what’s wrong with Japan today. Young people with no principles. But not with me. I’m — hah! You, you — short stuff! Find your own! I was first. Too tall for you anyway.”

Short stuff? What the fuck! “He is not!” Seriously, what the fuck! “What the — who has no manners here, huh? What the fuck do you even think you’re —”

But Drunk Asshole isn’t listening. He’s stopped paying attention to Ryuu entirely and is squinting short-sightedly over Ryuu’s shoulder. “No business principles. The downfall of modern soce — soshie — how can Japan stand! Rude little — but I’m going to overlook it. Better not happen again though. First come first served. That’s the ticket.”

He takes an unsteady step to the side, trying to detour around Ryuu. He’s started doing something awful with his face that almost looks like he’s leering, of all things — all waggling eyebrows and licking of lips.

“Lucky for you,” he announces in boozy triumph. “Lucky! I like you. Because — yeah, legs.”

Hiro giggles explosively. When Ryuu tears his gaze away from the horrific display of the crazy drunk asshole’s leer, Hiro catches his eye, jerking his head towards the car.

Making a break for it isn’t exactly hard; Ryuu’s willing to bet their opponent doesn’t set speed records even when he isn’t totally plastered.

He can sure make a lot of noise, though. “No way! I was first! Principles dictate! And — and I’ll pay double!”

Hiro slams the door, but drunk guy is undeterred. He just bellows out his next offer even louder. “Triple!”

Even when they’re already accelerating, Ryuu can still hear the crazy sot’s complaints. Wow, they’re lucky it’s not a busy street. If they’d had to wait for a break in traffic to pull out, the guy would probably have started scrabbling at the door or something.

And then Ryuu can’t believe his eyes as Hiro turns in his seat, mugging out the window and waving a friendly goodbye.

“Are you insane?” Ryuu reaches out, slapping at the idiot’s chest. “Stop it! What the hell are you doing?”

“Ow — Ryuu-chan!”

God, Ryuu is surrounded by crazy people. “I can’t believe you’re encouraging him. What’re you gonna do if he flags down a taxi or something and follows us, huh?”

Hiro gives a giggly snort of amusement; Ryuu’s taking a turn and can’t look right then, but he can see the accompanying ‘oh Ryuu, you’re so silly’-grin from the corners of his eyes. “Come on, he wouldn’t go that far for someone with no business principles. Besides, that man is drunker than a skunk. By the time he found a taxi, he’d have forgotten —”

He breaks off mid-sentence.

The next traffic light is red, and Ryuu takes the opportunity to turn in his seat, giving Hiro A Look. The effort is in vain, though. Hiro doesn’t even notice. He’s too busy staring out the window. “Uhm, okay, maybe he isn’t quite as drunk as I thought.”

Ryuu leans over to follow Hiro’s line of sight. There’s nothing to see, really, just a couple of teenagers hanging out underneath a near-by streetlight, watching the cars go by.

Except. Wait a sec. Those kids — the way they’re leaning against the wall. The way they’re angling their bodies into purposeful casualness, radiating a challenging kind of coolness shading into invitation.

Ryuu’s been in way too many photoshoots not to recognize posing when he sees it.

One of the loitering boys catches them looking. The assessing look he levels their way, the way he straightens, saunters closer to the idling car…

It isn’t Ryuu’s imagination.

The lights change then, and Ryuu almost tail-ends the car in front of him in his haste to leave the kid behind.

Now that Ryuu thinks about it, this particular corner of the city features rather a lot of teenagers with tight clothes and glittery belts, posing as sexily as they know how.

“No way,” Ryuu gets out. “No fucking way. God, I am going to kill Yo. What the fucking fuck!”

He probably would have caught on sooner, if not for the fact that the hookers around here are all male. Not to mention that he just doesn’t expect restaurants recommended by his best damn friend — ‘you’ll love it, it’s right up your alley!’ — to be surrounded by rent boys.

What kind of prank is this? Sure, Yo loves pranks, and Ryuu bets he’s laughing himself sick right now, the bastard, but seriously, this is just, what the fuck!

“Great restaurant, though,” Hiro says. “I mean. Yo was right about that! The neighborhood might be a bit iffy, sure, but the botan nabe was amazing. And my eel was delicious.”

Ryuu snorts. Hiro looks over at him and meets his eye, and suddenly they both break up into helpless, hysterical laughter. Ryuu can’t stop, can hardly breathe; he’s lucky he manages to pull over in time to avoid a traffic accident.

“Oh my god!” Ryuu fumbles for a tissue, turning away to spare Hiro the sight — though Hiro himself isn’t exactly any more put together, either. “That drunk asshole actually thought you were hanging around waiting for customers! He was seriously trying to —”

“I know!” Hiro’s so breathless he can hardly get the words out between the laughter. “He kind of stared at me a little and I thought he recognized me or something, and then he came up to me, and I — I just kind of chatted with him! It must have been so weird for him. I bet you’re not supposed to talk about how the winter air is so nice and clear, or —”

Only Hiro, seriously. “What did he say?”

Hiro giggles helplessly for a moment. “He said, you’re new here, right? I would have remembered if I’d seen you before. And then — I thought he was just really drunk, and also really bad at small talk.”

That sets them off again. By the time they finally calm down, Ryuu’s stomach aches and he’s sure he’s all pink-nosed and swollen-eyed. Hiro’s a weakly chuckling heap sprawled in the passenger seat, cheeks wet with tears of laughter.

“I guess maybe I shouldn’t have worn these pants.”

The pants in question are new, but stonewashed to the point where they might as well be years old. They cling to Hiro like a second skin, inviting touch.

It’s an invitation Ryuu’s glad to accept. He runs a light hand over Hiro’s thigh and discovers the pants feel good, too, worn to an almost velvety softness. “Nah, I like them. These are nice pants.”

Hiro smiles at him — slowly, sweetly.

Their gazes catch and hold. A tiny prickle of awareness seeps into Ryuu’s guts. And just like that, the mood shifts.

“So,” Ryuu says slowly, a tempting idea sparking to life in his mind. He smoothes his hand over Hiro’s jean-clad thigh once more, allowing it to settle just above the knee. “How much would an evening of your company set me back, then?”



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