Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Fan Fiction ❯ The Last Track ❯ The Last Track ( One-Shot )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: I do not own BECK(MCS) manga, and I amnot makingany moneyfrom this story.BECK is owned by Harold Sakuishi.
Wordcount: 9672
The Last Track - Beck Manga Fanfiction
Sandy Warfield
Saying that Koyuki was abso-fucking-lutely exhausted was a bit of an understatement. Day after non-stop day in the studio with the `silent and charismatic' Scott Lambroza for a month had drained him to an extent he hadn't imagined possible—and not just physically tired, but the experience had left him mentally panting as well.
Writing an entire album in a month, contributing to both the guitar arrangement (with Ryusuke) as well as writing lyrics; recording both guitar and vocals for eight new songs and rerecording new `Lambroza' approved versions of five of their more popular indy titles, had left him with barely enough energy to breathe much less enough time to take care of his body properly—elucidated by his grown-out hair, which had descended past scruffy into what Saku dubbed scruff-shag.
He really needed a haircut. But that would have to wait until a time when he could move without getting the sudden urge to curl up in any random corner and sleep the rest of the day away.
But, I wouldn't have it any other way, he thought to himself as he lounged on Scott's apartment patio, sprawled sideways in a boneless mass on one of the many recliners that decorated the balcony; enjoying the feeling of satisfaction while it lasted.
Having been invited to stay at Scott's penthouse apartment was a mixed blessing of sorts. After a day of getting his hard-work very politely trashed there were times when he just didn't want to see the man's face any longer and that really wasn't an option when you were living with him 24/7. Koyuki's handle on the English language on the other hand, had improved by leaps and bounds. He could now finally hold semi-intelligent conversation without making a fool of himself around native-speakers. Watching American Television had helped some in that respect. Reading English versions of Japanese manga that Matt had lent him was even more helpful—although it reminded him that he should seriously have paid more attention in English class back in school. Scott was unyielding about learning the language.
“Listen, Koyuki, for better or for worse you are the face of band,” Scott had told him when he had first moved in. “The audience you're aiming for is international, which means you need to be fluent in English. No if ands or buts about it.
“The face?” Koyuki remembered asking, uncomfortable with the idea. The divide between him and Chiba was still a bit too tender to comfortably think about that. “Chiba-kun is the front-man. I just sing sometimes.”
“To an extent you both are. People will come to concerts to go wild with Chiba's rap and his ripping-vocals. But they'll go away with your face and your voice in their heads and their hearts wanting more. It's what's so appealing about MCS as a band. You can put on a riot at concerts, but your music lends well to studio-music at the same time. Chiba can draw people to him, but you'll be what they stick around for. Look up the word `synergy' when you get the chance. A good band is defined by it.
It was yet another reason why he felt so drained—learning the English language from native-speakers. His tireless effort showed in his lyrics. He had cringed as he rewrote Baby Star and Out of the Hole with Matt's help. Enduring Matt's good-natured gibes aimed at his broken English lyrics had become almost comfortable even if he was usually the butt-end of the joke. It was nice at least that he could hold a conversation with the mercurial singer—a meaningful one…or as meaningful as they ever got when Matt was involved.
Unfortunately his new connection with the singer also meant he was running out of excuses to avoid invitations when he went out drinking with Ryusuke. Koyuki had thus far begged out of them all—and for the sake of maintaining his already poor health he was going to keep avoiding them until he was sure he could handle the mother of all hangovers that was sure to follow such an intense experience; because everything that Matt got involved with ended up intense. He didn't have any other gears really.
Only a little over two-weeks until the album's release. He rolled over lazily so he could watch his breath condense into dense white puffs that vanished upwards into the startlingly clear blue New York skyline. He pulled the blanket he was using up to his neck to keep the chill fall air at bay—the only thing keeping him awake, really. That was why he was out here struggling to remain conscious. He felt guilty sleeping all day. Scott was already onto another project and wouldn't be back until later. How the man could just keep going with that intensity of his was a wonder of the modern world.
There was one positive aspect of being so thoroughly exhausted. He and the rest of the band had put absolutely everything into their album—leaving nothing in reserve. The weird thing was, he wasn't exactly satisfied, but he wasn't dissatisfied either. Matt had been strangely amused when he'd told him as much, having just finishing recording the last fixed lyrics for Devil's Way.
“I don't think any artist is ever completely satisfied with their work,” Matt had revealed in one of his rare sober moments of wisdom that only a recording studio seemed to be able to draw-out of his shell. “There's no way anyone honest will ever look at their work and say: there! Perfect! I can do no more! Real or imagined—there's always something wrong with it. But there comes a time where you've expended enough effort on it to get it to a pinnacle where time - effort - and talent all come together. That's when you finally decide you can live with the product before moving on to something new—and the cycle starts all over again. You're your own worst critic. You always will be. I know you're not fishing for compliments or whatever. So for what it's worth, this song gives me shivers every-time I hear it. Take that how you like.”
His thoughts were rudely interrupted by his buzzing phone, which, set on vibrate, was attempting to rattle its way off the small table beside him before he slammed his hand down on it and answered it.
“Koyuki? Still alive?”
He recognized Saku's voice on the other end. Talking just seemed like such an effort. “Uh-huh. Are you calling from Japan?”
“Duh. I'm sending you a picture. Hold on.”
Koyuki pulled the phone away from his cheek and stared blankly at the screen. A moment later a picture of Mitchan sitting with Kayo-san and a bunch of the old crowd from his bar appeared.
“I'm the attractive guy in the middle,” Saku pointed out.
“So…when did you become an ex-con and grow a moustache?”
Silence. “Uh…Oh! Oops, wrong picture. Wait, here's the one I wanted to show you.”
The photo that came through this time showed Saku sitting between two blow-up dolls with his `I'm Saku' expression on his face; his two index fingers pointing at himself self-importantly.
Koyuki shook his head and brought the phone back to his ear. He hunkered lower into his cocoon of blankets. “Can I hang up now?”
“It's Saitou-san's birthday present,” Saku informed him. “They're twins.”
“Haha…that's cruel. He's already depressed about getting dumped.”
“I thought it might cheer him up.” Saku sounded far too innocent to be completely honest.
“Find him a girlfriend.” Koyuki suggested. “One who likes music and strange sexual positions. That'll cheer him up. You didn't just call about Saitou-san though, did you?”
“Nah. Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I'm not the one who lost twelve pounds during recording,” Koyuki pointed out.
“Don't remind me. Still reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms?”
“I finished it. It's just as bad in English as it was in Japanese. Matt lent me his English copy of Happy Sakaguchi to read next—apparently Ryusuke bought him the entire series the last time he was here.”
Saku snickered loudly and Koyuki agreed with the sentiment. The very idea of Matt enjoying a shojo manga was as otherworldly as it was wrong.
“How much longer are you planning on staying in New York?”
Koyuki groaned and tried to get his brain to function long enough to remember. “Well…I'm not sure. We have that huge promo here in New York when the CD gets released in three weeks. They're talking about getting us to shoot a music video for Devil's Way or Coin Laundry but they're still negotiating with P&B Japan over whether it should be shot here, or back home. Sooo…I think I'd rather stay here, relax, and just soak up more of the language until something gets decided. I still get nervous talking in English. And when I get nervous my English gets really bad.”
Saku snorted. “Sometimes I'm grateful that I just have to stand in the background and look stoic for interviews. You and Ryusuke can do all the talking. Chiba's been listening to books on tape in English before he goes to sleep…but his English doesn't seem to be getting any better. Taira-kun on the other hand is pulling ahead—he's taking lessons at a community college.”
He snorted into the phone. “The last time I talked to Ryusuke he was planning to fly back here to work on some different live arrangements for the new songs we can use on tour, including some acoustic stuff—so I was planning on helping him with that. But it's hard to find time when he's always with this girl he met.” The acoustic arrangement for Coin Laundry was already done—they had written it completely with acoustic guitars in the first place with Saku drumming on a stool. Using that as a template, it hadn't been too much trouble to write in the alterations they had made during recording. “Have you seen the tentative touring schedule our American Agent put together?”
“Yeah, Seaside sent a copy to P&B Japan. Taira-kun has a copy.” Saku hesitated before continuing. “You notice we finish up on the West-Coast in Seattle at the Lizard-House?”
“Uh-huh. We're headlining, I think—though most of the rest of the tour will be with another platinum-selling band on Seaside's label.”
“That's…intimidating. But you know what else is scary? After Seattle we're heading back to Japan for a big tour. You would not believe how much P&B Japan is spending to market us. I think they want to do a photo shoot for some print ads. Taira-kun is trying to convince them to use some of Kippei-san's live-shots of us at the festival and photoshop the rest. I don't think he likes the idea of taking set-up fake shots of the band. They never turn out well with us.”
“What does Chiba think?” Koyuki wondered.
Saku's tone turned long-suffering. “He wanted to do some kung-fu shots, of course. He would have put Takahara-san in a knee lock when he shot-down that idea if Taira-kun hadn't been there to mediate.”
“Haha…with Chiba-kun that's no joke.”
“He's also been arguing that our merchandise should include wrestling masks—like the ones he made when he was in charge of merchandise when we started up.”
“Ah…you did remind him that those never sold, right?” Koyuki tentatively pointed out.
“I did. But he's convinced this time will be different. I told him to leave the decision up to the professionals.”
“I think I won the argument when I wouldn't tap out of his sleeper-hold. But I'm not sure.”
“Why not?”
“I blacked-out.”
Koyuki bit his tongue hard so he wouldn't laugh at the mental image. “B-better you than me,” he finally managed.
“Thanks,” Saku said dryly. A muffled voice was saying something on the other end of the line but Koyuki couldn't quite make out what was being said. “Oh, I have to go. Hiromi is here. Call me if you decide to come back?”
“Uhn…say hi to her for me; Saitou-san too when you see him.”
“I will. Ja.”
Koyuki flipped his phone closed and promptly sneezed. Urk…maybe sitting outside wasn't the smartest way to stay awake. He had just dropped his cell back into his lap when it started vibrating again. He flinched at the weird contact with his crotch and fumbled the phone open again. The number on the call display wasn't one he recognized.
“Hey, Koyuki. It's Matt.”
“Matt?” Why would the singer be calling him today? He was supposed to be in the studio finishing up his own album's mixing and mastering.
“Yeah. Listen,” he began shortly. “I heard from Scott that you stayed in New York `cause you missed the flight back.”
“Uhn. Scott couldn't wake me up.” His cheeks reddened. He was glad Matt couldn't see his face.
“Haha…yeah he told me about that. So, you have some free time today? I need a favor.”
Koyuki blinked blankly and tilted his head back to regard the sky with a frown. “From me?” What could Matt want from him?
“Yeah, you. Scott said you were tired but-”
“No-no,” Koyuki interrupted quickly. “Feel like all I been doing for the past couple of days is sleep. What do you need?”
“Come into the studio, I've got it booked. I'll explain once you get here.” Matt paused for a moment as if suddenly remembering something. “You have Eddie's guitar with you?”
“Uhn. I do most of my…” What was the word? “…make music on it so I brought it over…”
There was a short breath of relief from Matt. “Lucky. Bring that with you. Can you be here in an hour?”
He glanced at his watch and winced. “If I catch the train in ten minutes…I think. I'm still not used to the trains here.”
“Well…try anyways. We can talk while we eat.”
“Can you hear the problem?” Matt asked from across the table, his intense black eyes, for once, not hiding behind his usual sunglasses. He was half-leaned over the table conveying the sort of urgency that came along with his request.
Koyuki stared at the small silver mp3 player in his hands blankly. His hands, which had begun trembling, wouldn't still. He fingered the play button once more. It was a simple song. Simple and lyrical in a strangely vibrant minor key that dripped emotion from every word that fell out of Matt's lips on the grainy demo.
“Who's playing guitar?” The playing style for some reason seemed intimately familiar.
“Eddie recorded the guitar when we were just starting out,” said Matt, confirming Koyuki's suspicions. “We never finished the song. I found the original guitar demo when I was going through some of his stuff. It's been sitting around collecting dust. I know it's a little campy, but it resonated…you know?”
Koyuki's smile felt grim on his face. “It shows. Ah—but I'm not saying that that's a bad thing.” He hastily reassured the man. There was so much emotion it almost physically hurt his chest to hear. “I think the lyrics are very good. And the song is interesting…it's about Eddie right?”
Matt took a swig from the glass in front of him, the sweating beer mug splattering the table as he set it back down. “I wrote and recorded the lyrics just a couple months ago.”
Drunk, if Koyuki had correctly read the singer's voice. It was eerily similar vocally to the time that Matt had sung Search and Destroy with him at the Lizard House. Matt gained a sort of rough slur to his words when he drank, and while it wasn't as noticeable when he sang, if you knew what to listen for it became quite obvious.
“It's…it's an interesting song.” That was putting it lightly. The guitar wasn't exactly anything special (which was a bit odd considering Eddie wrote it) but even Eddie couldn't write golden music all the time, he supposed. But the song wasn't really about the acoustic guitar in the first place. The voice was first and foremost; three verses without a chorus all bled into one final blitz that had left his hands trembling from the intensity. “Like a story,” he continued glancing up from his hands at Matt's stoic face.
“C'mon Koyuki, just say it. Honesty would be good.”
Ears burning, Koyuki looked over at the line-up for the StarryBux counter across the street. “There nothing wrong with it. It's just…you switch from following the melody to a strange diminished harmony in some places. Ah—but it sounds good! Just…a bit weird. But I don't think it really works with the guitar…but it could work…if you changed some parts…” Koyuki trailed off, fighting off feelings of discomfort that arose from his situation.
Sitting at a private table talking with Matt Reid about a song he and Eddie co-wrote was just a bit…
The corners of the elder singer's lips tugged upwards. “I'm only singing one of the vocal parts. There are two in total.” He drained the last of the amber liquid that filled his mug and eyed the streaks of foam with an air of irked mal-humor. “But I haven't recorded the second part, `cause that's the one I'm singing. You just need to learn the part on this demo.”
“Huh?” said Koyuki intelligently.
“We do it in one shot. Tonight. One run through recorded in the same booth—with Eddie's guitar. No tricks. No digital remixing. Just you, me, and Eddie's guitar for eight minutes.” He stopped and looked down at his glass again, contemplatively. “And booze. Lot's of booze. I definitely won't be able to do this sober. Whaddya say?”
Koyuki bit his lip as he contemplated. He couldn't help but feel it was blasphemous to even contemplate doing this with Mat. “I don't know…”
“Oh, come on. You didn't have any problems finishing Devil's Way, did you?”
“That…that's true.” Koyuki frowned. He wouldn't have to struggle with writing lyrics for this song. “I've just always thought…well…thought that it really should have been part of your CD, not ours.” Maybe it was a bit off topic, but it felt good to say that out loud. The issue of who owned the song had been bothering him ever since they'd finished it on Eddie's behalf. It really should have belonged to Matt, or at least they should have involved him a bit more in the composition. The only reason Koyuki hadn't said anything before this was because Ray had kept Matt in the loop throughout the entire process, and to Koyuki's knowledge, Matt hadn't said a word in protest.
When Koyuki risked a glance upwards, he found Matt staring at him with the corner of his lips downturned—not in a displeased manner, but rather a manner that suggested he was turning something over in his head.
“It was never about who the song belonged to,” he said eventually. “It was about finishing something that needed to be finished, and letting everyone hear it. All Eddie did was plant a seed in your mind. You were the one who let it grow Koyuki, you and the rest of the guys.” He grimaced as if tasting something sour. “And I wasn't in a place to really help, or do it myself. I still wonder if my head will ever get screwed on straight again.” He rubbed his eyes and waved his mug at a waiter to bring him another pint.
While Matt waited impatiently for his next beer, Koyuki listened to the song on the mp3 player again. But this time he began mentally transposing a second voice in Matt's range to harmonize with the one on the tape. The change was immediate. The minor chords on the guitar suddenly made sense. Koyuki hummed along a moment, just to see if he had it right.
Matt was holding back a smile over his refilled mug when Koyuki finally finished. “Ah…when you add a second voice…” Koyuki started and trailed off…suddenly realizing he had been humming not only in a public venue, but in front of Matt. He blushed and stammered a bit before Matt took pity on him.
“So…what do you say? Think you can learn all that by this afternoon?”
“If I start working on it now…I think so…” he agreed hesitantly. “But…do you mind if I change some of the guitar?” When Matt continued to stare at him he hastily reassured him: “Ah, but I won't change it a lot…just…what's the word? Smooth it?” English was such a frustrating language sometimes. He must sound like an idiot to a native speaker like Matt.
“Be my guest, Koyuki. Composition was never my thing, you know? That was Eddie's gig. Just keep it like the original as much as possible—that's what I based the vocals on. Anyway, I reserved one of the smaller studios for you—you can use it as long as you like to get everything straight. Come on, I'll show you the way.”
Matt dug into his pocket as he stood and tossed a twenty down on the table before striding away purposefully. Koyuki nervously grabbed his guitar case and hurried after him.
And I thought I was done being pressured by Eddie's ghost, Koyuki thought exasperatedly. As if Devil's Way hadn't stressed him out enough; this came up out of nowhere. He felt like he owed the singer this much, at least.
Koyuki's fingers danced up and down the fret-board stretching them well past his own comfort zone to accommodate the strange chords Eddie had used throughout his lengthy composition.
One two three one two and one - shit!
His mental count was interrupted when one of his fingers missed the high e progression and the note hung in the air sourly—a painful reminder of how damn awkward the score for Matt's song was to play. Apparently no-one had told Eddie that fingers just aren't supposed to move that way.
“When it comes to stupid chords that have no name and are awkward to play but sound good, Ryusuke and Eddie have no competition,” he muttered down into the score he had been assembling by ear from the rough demo—more for his own peace of mind than born from true necessity. He reset his mp3-player to listen to the sequence again—forcibly ignoring the exhaustion that still lingered in his limbs from the past month.
The guitar rested on his crossed legs while he stretched his fingers and his back in an attempt to work out the kinks that had developed over the past several hours. Matt's manager had been in and out of the recording booth throughout the day keeping him well-stocked with warm drinks for his throat, and food for his constantly growling stomach. The evidence of those visits was spread around the used music-sheets that had collected around his space in the middle of the studio floor.
“Koyuki? How's it coming?” Matt asked, popping his head in the door, and entering completely when he realized Koyuki was taking a bit of a break.
“Good, I guess. My fingers hurt,” he said and shook them out after he pulled the ear-buds out of his ears. “Want to listen?”
“Nah. Just came by to check on you. We're just about finished the mastering of the other tracks and Scott's been wondering if you're ready any time, or…would you rather have the rest of the afternoon?”
Koyuki was extremely doubtful he'd be left with anything other than stubs of his fingers if he practiced for much longer. For such a short learning period, the song was about as learned as it was going to get. “I'm okay. It should be easier during the recording. I'm going to play by ear. I just wanted to get as much of the original in my head with the changes I made before recording.” Back in the day, Moleman had always emphasized feeling over technical perfection when the later was in doubt. It was a lesson well-learned for Koyuki.
“Good. Fine, I'll let him know. Just uh…come on down when you're ready. We'll be waiting. No rush though.” Matt paused in the doorway. “I really appreciate this Koyuki. I won't forget this, man.”
He let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding until after the door shut behind the huge American singer. He could make a good copy of the score later. Watching Scott master an already recorded song would be a good distraction.
He put away the guitar and sheet music and tidied up the mess he'd made before lugging the instrument and himself down the hall to the studio Matt's label had reserved. One of the songs that he was sure Ryusuke participated in recording was being played as he snuck in. Ryusuke and Lucille could never be mistaken for anyone else's work.
Scott sat in front of the sound-board looking ever the King of the room, while Matt hung back to the side sipping a steaming cup of coffee. The rest of the population of the sound-room was rounded off by a long-haired blond man who Koyuki identified as Matt's manager, and what looked like a techie who he identified a bit hazily as a woman who had helped out with post-recording mastering of BECK's first album with Seaside.
In an effort not to disturb the atmosphere, Koyuki quietly deposited his bag and instrument under the only table and took a seat that Matt's manager waved him into with a smile of greeting.
“Thanks for showing up Koyuki,” the man whispered and offered his hand, which Koyuki awkwardly accepted. Though he would probably never be comfortable with how touchy-feely Americans were at times, at least it no longer blindsided him. “Matt's been psyched about this all day.”
“He has?”
“He didn't tell you? Man, he's been talking about trying to get you to sing with him ever since the Avalon Festival. Here,” the man typed something into the laptop in front of him and waited a moment before turning the screen towards Koyuki, who could only stare at it blankly.
Koyuki squinted and shrugged apologetically at the foreign language displayed. “Ah…I can't read English too well—”
“Oh, shit. Sorry.” He turned the screen back around with a sheepish grin. “It's a website with rare live recordings—unprofessional, unsanctioned, uncensored—but they have a pretty good following, and none of the big record companies bother them too much so long as they don't overlap live albums. Ever since Matt showed up at your Avalon performance, one of their top downloads has been a rip someone took of the duet you and Matt did in Seattle.”
Koyuki blanched. “Matt was…” While he had fond memories of singing Search and Destroy with the popular singer, Matt had gone nuts near the end of the song and ended up crashing not only the drum set—but brutally onto the floor when his attempt at drunken crowd-surfing failed spectacularly.
“Yeah,” the agent laughed quietly, “I think the end of it is half the fun for the fans, since it's so off the cuff and crazy. Hardcore fan really dig the `non-commercialized' stuff like this.”
“Koyuki. Finally managed to drag yourself outta bed?”
He turned to find both Scott and Matt had finished whatever they were doing had both turned to regard him. Scott wasn't quite grinning, but he sounded amused nevertheless. Matt just sipped his coffee idly, an action which didn't quite manage to hide his own amused grin.
Koyuki could feel his cheeks warm under their combined pressure. “I'll choose music over a nap, any day.” Koyuki shrugged and tried to change the topic. “I haven't heard that song yet, and I thought I'd heard all the ones Ryusuke had recorded for you.”
“Late addition to the album. We weren't sure it was going to be included,” Matt explained, “but it turned out a lot better than I thought it would after mixing. A bit of Scott's magic, I guess.”
Scott just continued to smile, though it took on a bit of a self-satisfied edge as he turned it onto Matt.
“Anyway, you guys want a bit of a break before we do this, or do you want to jump right into it?” Scott asked the two musicians.
Matt looked like he was going to accede to whatever Koyuki decided, so he just nodded.
“So…one take?” Koyuki asked as he retrieved his guitar from under the table and followed Matt into the recording booth.
“You saw me recording my own album, didn't you?” Koyuki said dryly, and Matt laughed.
“You were downright twitchy until Chiba came in and gave you a German suplex.” Koyuki's head still ached at just the thought of Chiba—or wrestling in general. “Still—kid had the right idea with you—”
He was pretty sure Matt was kidding. “Scott made me nervous.” It was eerie how the man never reacted to a screw-up. He just calmly told you to do it again…and again…and again.
“Scott couldn't hurt a fly,” Matt scoffed and got an amused grin from the man on the other side of the glass.
“I had to get in the recording booth right after he'd ripped Saku's drumming to pieces and made him redo it close to fifty different times. I kept imagining ending my own set with bleeding fingers just before I started my vocal set.” Koyuki shivered even as Matt cracked his first beer open and guzzled it like it was water.
Matt let out a deeply satisfied “ahhh,” as he wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve. “But it turned out OK in the end.”
“I guess,” Koyuki shrugged. He hefted the guitar out of its case and donned the strap to anchor it to his body.
“I'm just saying, if you get nervous…well…my wrestling moves are a little rusty but I'm here if you need me, you know?”
Matt got a smile for his effort while Koyuki tuned. He had that same feeling in his stomach he always got before performing. A giddy sort of energy that was just waiting to be released. He couldn't quite stop his hands from trembling as his fingers worked the pegs to ensure his guitar was in the right key for the odd song. Sometimes performing in front of strangers was a lot easier than those whom you respected, and cared what they thought about your music and performance. Scott and Matt were both high on his own personal list.
“Ah. I did mean to ask…what's this song called?”
Matt didn't respond until he had drained the rest of his bottle, which he tossed into the nearest garbage can carelessly. “Last Track. I'm all about the double meanings, you know? It's the last track on the album, yeah…but it's also like…hell…it's about Eddie, I'm sure you can figure it out.”
He could have hit himself just then—but there was no avoiding the issue. Koyuki swallowed hard and tried another tack when Matt seemed focused a hundred miles away as he picked another beer from the cooler and twisted off the cap.
Matt really hadn't been kidding when he said there would be lots of booze available. The little fridge was packed with beer.
“I—I'm glad you're still making music. Even if he's gone,” Koyuki offered a bit lamely, and winced as soon as he said it.
A heavy hand settled on his head and ruffled his hair, even while Matt continued to drink. “I'd be dead or in Jail if I wasn't making music. Eddie saved me, you know. That's why I was so fuckin' happy when I heard you guys were finishing Devil's Way. I needed that. I really fucking did. Like everything that's been weighing me down has just all upped and disappeared.
“That song was what made me want to finish this one. Never would'a done it either. I'm too much of a fuckin' coward. Took me hours to get that demo done. Kept fuckin' up and crying. Shit.”
When the hand fell away Koyuki glanced up through his bangs. Matt's eyes were suspiciously glittery in the soft studio lighting. The more Koyuki hung around Matt, the more he was beginning to understand Ryusuke's initial description of Matt's unapproachable outer façade and inner vulnerability.
“You guys starting in there?” Scott asked through the sound-room mic.
“Almost there. One more and I'll be good to go,” Matt said, then hesitated. “Maybe two.”
“We're all set on this end. It's just recording everything right now, so start whenever you're ready. No rush Matt.” Scott was all patience normally, but in that moment he sounded like even more so than usual.
The dark-skinned singer didn't reply. The bottle in his hand clanked loudly as it hit the bin. His next choice fizzed only briefly before the sound was muffled behind his lips.
Koyuki busied himself adjusting the stool in front of the only mic in the room; one of those old condenser-style models that hung from the ceiling. Koyuki settled himself and hooked his feet under a rung—waiting for Matt.
It was surprisingly painful to watch the older man get drunk because he couldn't deal with the raw agony of saying goodbye to Eddie. It wasn't hard because it was pitiful. It was hard because Koyuki knew there was nothing he could say. Eddie Lee had died on a back-road for no damn good reason at the height of his career. Ryusuke had been shattered for months, and Matt was a lot closer to Eddie than Ryusuke had ever been. He'd been around him every day for years. They were band-mates.
So Koyuki just sat with his guitar and waited—and tried his best not to fall into the lurch of emotions that were smothering the small recording booth.
The loud crash of Matt's last beer bottle missing the garbage can and exploding against the wall behind it seemed to be the signal that Matt was finally ready.
There was something phenomenal about Matt's presence as he took his place on the opposite side of the microphone, eyes closed and waiting. With someone else inside the booth with him, it was much easier to pretend that the booth and Scott didn't exist. Unwilling to disturb Matt's sudden tranquil peace, Koyuki counted under his breath to himself, fingers hovering in the sweet spot between sound-hole and bridge.
He laid out the four-note intro which was basically a way for both himself and Matt to figure out what notes they were starting on before they both began. Matt's voice wasn't slurred, but it was rough and bled into the small space like an open wound. For a couple of lines it was hard to tell if their voices really matched. Koyuki's was smoother and practically an entire octave higher and in contrast Matt's sometimes hit notes so low Koyuki could feel them vibrate the body of his guitar. Matt paused in odd places, not always singing everything Koyuki sang, but came back in harsh, strong, and intense—all sorts of melancholic emotions dragging Koyuki and his guitar along whether he wanted to or not. When one voice left off, the other took up, and when that voice left off, the guitar was there, sad and longing in its bittersweet key and finger-mangling chords. It wasn't hard to get into the lyrics and the song. It was hard not to drown in them.
Somewhere in the middle of the song Matt opened his eyes, though he probably wasn't able to see. Tears welled and dribbled down his cheeks, and it wasn't long before Koyuki's own vision was similarly affected.
And it only got worse as Matt moved into his last verse.
Koyuki couldn't even see his fingers any more as he blinked back tears. The aural intensity of their voices pinnacled as Matt said his last goodbye—and made his promise through the pain and the alcohol…to pick up every piece of his fucked-up life and keep going.
His fingers hovered lightly on the strings over frets that produced the final trio of resonant notes practically past the limit of human hearing. And then it was over. Matt's chest heaving heavily and his breathing loud and unsteady in the sudden silence that felt more like a loud roar to Koyuki's ears.
Unlike Koyuki, who quickly scrubbed his eyes, Matt just stood there gazing at the ceiling, his thousand kilometer stare boring a hole in the ceiling. Koyuki looked through the window over at Scott who gave him two-thumbs up and a small understanding smile. Matt's manager was there as well, sitting with a beer in hand, looking equally lost in thought.
Koyuki slipped off the stool and put Eddie's guitar away carefully. When he stood up again, Matt had regained some of his composure.
“Thanks Koyuki,” he managed roughly. The singer didn't look unflappable in that moment. Just lost…and vulnerable.
Koyuki was reminded then of how Ryusuke had taken Matt out drinking to lift his spirits after the Live incident. He was going to regret this in the morning but he swallowed and gathered his courage nonetheless. “How - how about we go drinking? I could call Ryusuke.”
“Nah. He's with some chick he picked up. I'll take you up on the bar though. C'mon. There's one down the street.”
Scott said nothing as they came out, he looked like he wanted to listen to the recording again, but was tacitly waiting until Matt left before he did. Koyuki left his guitar with Matt's manager and let Matt guide him out of the building into the chilly New York air.
Dusk was settling to the sound of rush-hour traffic as they meandered down the sidewalk. In a tuque and wearing sunglasses, no-one was likely to recognize Matt where they were headed - probably a good thing considering the tense vibes the singer was giving off whenever someone looked their way.
Why do I get the feeling I'm going to regret this? thought Koyuki as they entered a bar that, to his dismay, was advertising dollar-shot Tuesdays. He stepped up beside Matt at the bar only partly horrified when Matt put two fifties down on the coaster-littered mahogany and told the bartender to keep hard booze coming until that ran out, they passed out, or the apocalypse came.
No wonder Ryusuke is such a mess after going out and drinking with him. Which really was the last completely coherent thought Koyuki would have for a long time as he picked up a shot-glass to match Matt for as long as his metabolism could hold out.
It was difficult to say who was supporting whom as Koyuki stumbled down the hallway supported and supporting the larger man beside him.
They eventually found Matt's apartment door by nearly crashing into it—which instigated another spastic fit of laughter to wrack both their bodies. And although painful and not as funny as tripping over the fire hydrant and ending up upside-down in a puddle had been, it wasn't quite as wet.
In a fit of annoyance, Matt knocked on the door and demanded to be let in, which of course led to Koyuki asking if his girlfriend was home to let them in. When Matt gave him a blank look and told him she was in England Koyuki toppled over again as another fit of laughter racked his frame. Matt was scowling a bit sheepishly and grumbed as he dug around his jeans for his keys.
When Koyuki couldn't seem to find the energy to get up Matt just grabbed his leg carelessly and dragged him into his apartment. While his leg was in the air and the ceiling had started to move, Koyuki began wondering exactly why his feet were bare and just where his shoes had gone exactly. He hadn't realized he'd vocalized this random but very important thought until Matt answered him.
“Last I saw you'd tied `em together and were using them like nunchucks to intimidate the guys you were trying to play pool with,” Matt revealed when he stumbled over Koyuki's prone form to close the door and shuck his soaked trench coat.
“I've been hanging out with Chiba too much,” Koyuki decided after his head stopped hurting where it had bumped against the raised sill of the doormat had dragged him across. “Ow?”
He didn't realize he was falling asleep until he was wrenched up from the ground and steadied on his feet by a strong pair of helpful arms. “Don't fall asleep, yet. You'll be useless tomorrow if you do. I always tell Ray that but he never listens.” Koyuki blinked sleepily finding himself thinking Matt's concerned dark eyes wouldn't look out of place on a Japanese person.
Once installed at his kitchen counter with a monstrous glass of water, Koyuki took a moment to look around.
“Why do you have an apartment in New York?” Koyuki asked when Matt emerged from his lengthy visit to the washroom wherein he did his best waterfall impression.
“Do most of my recording here, so I'm here for months at a time. It just made sense to buy something here.” He fell onto the stool next to Koyuki with a matching glass. “It's out of the way and low key enough that none of the media know I live here. I can get peace and quiet whenever I need it without worrying about getting hounded or whatever.”
Koyuki took a long drink from his glass to sooth his sore throat—too much singing and screaming in one day. He felt like putting his head down and sleeping, but from the way Matt was watching him he doubted it would be for long if he did.
“I know I said it already, but I really do appreciate what you did today. It means a lot. My psychologist has been on my case to find some healthy way to vent all the shit I've been feeling since Eddie died.”
Matt hadn't bothered to turn on any lights in the kitchen, and now Koyuki was glad he hadn't as he blushed thoroughly. “It's okay. I wanted to.”
“Eddie liked your voice, you know? So do I. That's part of the reason why I wanted you to do this with me. There are some days when…” Matt trailed off, finishing his glass of water before he continued. “-days when I want to hear you sing so fucking much it hurts, you know? Something about your songs just makes…fuck…I know this sounds crazy…but it makes me feel like I can take all the shit the world dishes out and be happy.”
Koyuki looked over feeling a bit of wonder and a bit of incredulity. He flinched when he met Matt's dark eyes which were staring at him earnestly.
“Shit…you're shivering. I forgot you didn't have a jacket when we fell into that puddle. You must be freezing.”
“A bit.” Koyuki rubbed the gooseflesh on his arms absently. The clock on the stainless steel microwave revealed it was just after midnight. “I should head back to Scott's place…”
“Forget that. You can stay here tonight. You think you can stay awake for a hot shower?”
Koyuki nodded hesitantly.
“Fine, the shower's through there, on your left. While you're in there I'll scrounge up some clothes for you to sleep in, okay?”
“Thank you.”
He found the bathroom in question down the hallway easily enough, and stripped off his wet clothing into a pile on the floor before he turned on the shower.
While he waited he noted the distinct lack of hair-care products and other feminine affects that one might expect in a bathroom frequented by Matt's girlfriend.
Matt's voice from the other side of the door startled him from his thoughts. “Towels are behind the glass door. It's kinda hidden, but there's a latch.”
“I see it, thanks.”
Koyuki just stood under the shower for a while until Matt pounded on the door wondering if he'd fallen asleep standing up. He couldn't really remember washing, which was weird because he felt clean and smelled like the vanilla scented soap he'd found in the shower. Matt must have stuck his head inside the door, because there was a pair of boxers and a thin white tee on the counter—both way too small to be Matt's.
He wandered barefoot down the hall until he found Matt's bedroom—where Matt had obviously just changed the sheets on the expansive King-sized Western bed.
“There's a couch I could sleep on, unless you don't mind sharing the bed.” Matt said once he'd spotted Koyuki hovering in the doorway.
“I don't want to put you out of your own bed…I don't mind.” He'd shared beds with Saku and Taira before when there weren't enough beds to go around in dirty motels on the American Tour.
“Cool. I'm gonna take a shower. Feel free to crash or whatever. I won't be too long.”
Koyuki fell onto the bed and briefly considered dragging himself over to one side…or getting under the covers. But before he could act on such rational thoughts he'd stopped thinking anything at all.
The American Tour had spawned several very memorable events that the band liked to bring up every once in a while much to everyone's amusement. At the moment Koyuki was strongly reminded of an incident in a cheap motel when they stopped in Austin, Texas that had been well documented by a disposable camera that Taira-kun had bought in a cheap drugstore the day before.
As usual their reservations had been mixed up and they found themselves with only two rooms, three beds, and four bodies. In the morning they'd found Chiba and Saku curled up around each other like lovers, Chiba stroking Saku's hair while Saku humped his leg with a perky erection poking out of the front of his boxers. Both of them, of course, still soundly asleep.
Neither could look the other in the face after that for weeks.
Waking up hugging a warm body while a large hand stroked its way through his hair brought back vivid flashes of the bed-humping incident.
Koyuki vaguely recalled entering the bar. He hazily recalled a door hitting him. Or him hitting the door. A glass of water.
He was also fairly certain there was some vanilla in there somewhere.
But none of that really explained why he was hugging Matt like he was some sort of giant plushy used for his own amusement. He was mortified to realize the stiffness between his legs was pressed firmly onto one of Matt's legs. Koyuki pried his eyes open with a groan muffled by the hard body his cheek was resting on only to find himself staring into sleepy but quite lucid obsidian orbs.
“Morning,” was all Matt said. Followed by: “I need to pee.” Four words which removed Koyuki from his person faster than even Taira wielding a camera would have.
Breakfast was deceptively normal. Koyuki made an effort to cook omelets for them, which Matt seemed to appreciate. Matt talked about his own tour plans, and then a bit about the band that BECK would be touring with (he knew the guys apparently and insisted they would be awesome and fun to be on tour with), but he said nothing about the whole thing on the bed.
And it was all the more conspicuous not getting mentioned.
Matt didn't even look the least bit uncomfortable. Koyuki could not say the same. Rumors had always surrounded Matt about his sexual preferences, and even Ray had mentioned that Matt didn't care too much about gender, but hearing about it second-hand was a lot different than experiencing it first hand.
Your over-thinking this, Koyuki. So you were…uh…cuddling after a drunken night. Who cares? It was just coincidence of warm body in the same bed.
So decided, Koyuki finally managed to look Matt in the eye without blushing. The smile that greeted him, however, gave him a sinking feeling that Matt knew exactly what was going through his head at that moment and what was making him blush - and he was enjoying every torturous moment of it.
“Koyuki, you can't just go off and do this sort of stuff anymore. You're under contract and we didn't negotiate a royalty sharing agreement with Matt's label before you recorded,” Komatsu lectured him through the cell Koyuki pressed to his ear.
“I didn't do it for the money!” Koyuki said firmly. “I don't care about money.”
“Even if you don't, we do. And we have signed you to a long-term contract.”
“It doesn't say anything about side-projects,” Koyuki protested immediately. “I haven't done anything wrong.”
“But there is a huge marketing possibility here. `Koyuki, lead singer of MCS performs a duet on the former lead singer of Dying Breed's new album.' This is the sort of thing you need to warn us about. We need to prepare to take advantage of these sorts of situations.”
Koyuki sighed and let his head fall back onto the wall behind the short-backed chair he was sitting on. “Matt called me yesterday morning. I recorded in the afternoon. Even I didn't have any warning.”
“Be that as it may. This isn't the sort of thing you should be rushing into when your first album goes on sale so soon. I'm not saying the publicity this will generate is a bad thing but…did you clear this with your band before you went ahead and did it?”
“I called Ryusuke. He said it would be good for Matt and good for the band.”
Komatsu's sigh over the line was exasperated. “Please, Koyuki, in the future just let us know the instant something like this happens again, please?”
“I will. I'm sorry.”
Koyuki hung up and took the offered cup of coffee Matt had brought him. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Everything okay?”
Koyuki hesitated for only a moment before he explained the problem. Matt just snorted into his own cup.
“All recording companies are like that. They just like to be able to control all of your publicity. Something like this is fairly minor. I mean, I have a good rep and my popularity will only increase yours.” Matt paused and shrugged. “They're always thinking of the worst case scenario. Like if instead of me you'd hooked up for a collaboration with a singer that would generate bad publicity…or a female singer that might spawn unwarranted rumors of a relationship that would hinder your first tour…that sort of thing.”
“I just wish this didn't have to be so…I don't know - so Mercenary. I just want to make…music. That sounds kinda lame doesn't it?”
Matt's hand came over to ruffle his hair again, which Koyuki playfully dodged. “You have the director of Seaside in your corner Koyuki. Don't worry too much about the little stuff. You ain't going to please everyone all the time no matter how hard you try. All you can do is try to stay true to you - know what I mean?”
“I think…thanks Matt.”
“No problem.”
Koyuki glanced back over his shoulder and into the sound-room behind them, then over at the singer relaxing beside him. “So…what did you think of the recording?”
Matt smiled in a manner that was eerily similar to how Scott Lambroza had reacted when Koyuki had asked the same question.
“When my label listened to it they wanted to make it in the album's second single.” Koyuki's eyes widened. “I told them to shove it. That song…well…you know. I wanted it to be on the album, you know? But I don't want it turned into something it isn't. It was my goodbye, and that's that. It's not some fucking merchandizing opportunity.”
Koyuki could understand that, at least. Ryusuke was decidedly against performing Devil's Way again simply because of the feelings and the meaning that song has for not only the entire band, but fans of the now defunct Dying Breed.
“I wouldn't mind performing it with you at a live, though,” Matt continued, “if you're up for it someday. But nothing manufactured. And certainly not when I'm fucking sober.” His voice held hints of self-depreciation in that statement. And Koyuki thought that maybe he was beginning to understand Matt a bit better when he understood just how much Matt disliked his own hair-trigger emotions. But then those emotions were exactly why he was such a loved singer. Because he didn't just sing about hurt and love and hatred. He experienced it and channeled it all through his music. Nothing Matt did was manufactured. If he sang it, it was real. Consequently, if he wasn't feeling something, he'd just walk off the stage—a problem Dying Breed had had at many lives where the sound-quality was crap and Matt had just left the stage.
And even though his own emotions were a bit more stable, Koyuki wasn't all that different. He could still remember experiencing it for the first time, singing Ryusuke's original acoustic version of sister in that small dinky studio in Tokyo—his first formal audition for BECK.
“How's Ray's little sister doing?” Matt asked, changing the topic quite suddenly.
“Eh? Maho-chan? She's fine. Still in England studying.”
“Ray was telling me you two are dating.”
Koyuki shifted uncomfortably on the small chair and took a sip of the scalding liquid. “I don't know about dating. One moment I think we are…the next…” a frustrated huff left his lips. “I don't know.”
“Long-distance relationships are tough. Trust me, I know. I've gone through so many. And all of them seem to end while I'm on a long tour. They just don't seem to want to wait around for me.” Matt sipped his drink and frowned. “Or they see me at an after-party and get this idea that I'm cheating on them, or something. Fuck. Sometimes I think Eddie had the right idea.”
“Yeah. See, he was a lot like Ray in some respects, maybe a bit less loose with his affections, but still a lot like Ray. They don't settle at all. It's a girl in one city and another in the next. No attachments, no regrets…just some fun and then it's gone.”
Having walked in on a Ray threesome, Koyuki knew exactly what Matt was talking about.
“I just don't work like that,” Matt admitted. “I focus on one person. It's just how I'm built. I don't want anyone else when I start to focus in on one person, you know?”
“I do,” Koyuki said, thinking of his own problems with Maho. Even when he'd had a willing girl back in Japan with Maho nowhere in sight he couldn't do it. “I'm the same.” Matt had a good belly-laugh when Koyuki shared how this girl back in Tokyo now was absolutely convinced he was gay when he wouldn't go all the way with her after she offered.
“It's not that funny,” Koyuki muttered into his coffee as Matt wound down.
“I'm sorry. Ray was convinced you had a thing for him for a while when you kept calling him Ryusuke-kun. I know it was just a mix-up, but it was still funny as hell.”
Koyuki failed to hide his embarrassment. “Ryusuke is uncomfortable with a lot of Japanese culture. He wouldn't let me call him senpai.”
“No kidding.” Matt chuckled. “I don't really get it either. But I'm not Japanese so I don't pretend I'll ever. Hey,” he said, changing the topic abruptly. “I heard you're heading back to Japan to shoot your first music video.”
“They booked me a flight tonight,” Koyuki grumbled. “We're shooting Coin Laundry on Friday and I have to be on site as soon as I can.”
“Mm…I'm more nervous. I don't know what to expect. Our first music video was shot by Jim Walsh.”
“Jim's the man. You'll do fine. Seaside wouldn't send someone shitty to do this one. I haven't heard them buzzing like this in years. They think they've finally hit the jackpot with you boys. I can't say I disagree.”
“T-thanks.” Koyuki willed his ears to cool.
“You may not have heard this, but he told me he wanted to be the one to direct Devil's Way when the time comes.”
“Jim did?” Koyuki asked.
“Yeah. It's gonna be your second single right?” Koyuki nodded. “Well…he sounded pretty enthused about it. So I'm sure he has his people already talking to Seaside about the possibility.”
“I think we'd all like that,” Koyuki admitted. Jim was a nice guy—he'd done an awesome job on their first video.
“You need a ride to the airport later?” Matt offered.
“N-no. Seaside is sending a limo.” Koyuki admitted uncomfortably.
“You have my number, though, right?” Matt asked.
Koyuki nodded. Matt had put it into his cellphone that morning at breakfast.
“Call me when you have your touring schedule, okay?”
“I will.”
“I should head back inside. Scott's been sending me the look for a while now.” Matt stood and stretched before he reached over and let his half-full coffee cup fall into the garbage can. “You know…I've got that feeling again.”
Koyuki craned his neck to look up. “Feeling?”
“Yeah. The one I had when I first started singing for Eddie. I lost it when he died, but now that I've sung my last track with him…I don't know. I feel like I can start again. Fuck…you must think I sound like an idiot sometimes.”
“I don't,” Koyuki reassured him with a smile. “It makes sense to me.”
“Haha…that's why I like you Koyuki. You get it. I don't need to fucking explain.” He put his hand on the knob and smiled at his own reflection in the narrow window. “I sang my last track for Eddie. But…I'm kinda hoping that was only the first track…between you and me.”
The door thudded closed in his wake.
When the limo-driver picked him up at Scott's later in the afternoon, he still had a stupid grin on his face.
A/N: I doubt many will read this. But I had some good inspiration for this little ficlet and couldn't resist. Personally, I wish there was more fanfiction out there based on this series. I think this is one of the best manga ever drawn/written in this genre. I bow to BECK's awesomeness.
I'll consider writing something else if there are interested parties out there in this sort of stuff.
Visit my blog, leave a review, or e-mail me. I'd love to hear from you.
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