Hayden Barnes was once teased by fellow classmates for being a geek and an otaku--a Japanese term for a person with obsessive interests in anime and manga. Now the joke is on them because Hayden took his interests straight to the bank when he opened Fantasy Productions, a company that produces anime and live-action drama taken from manga.
His current favorite is by Eiichi Honda, who specializes in M/M storylines. It is like a fantasy come true when Hayden meets the dark-haired, dark-eyed mangaka at a cosplay convention in Tokyo where Eiichi is dressed as Hayden's favorite character, Ciel, from Black Butler and he's dressed as Sebastian, Ciel's butler.
Eiichi hadn't planned to enter the cosplay contests, but his friends convinced him that there were still people out there who loved the Maid's CafÃ© manga he'd developed in high school. And he sure didn't think he would win, even though he'd worked hard on his costume and makeup. Most of all, he certainly didn't expect to meet his biggest fan, handsome producer and fellow otaku, Hayden Barnes, and become the star in Hayden's live-action version of his manga.
"You didn't tell me you had invited a friend to audition," Akio Koizumi said to Hayden Barnes as they sat in an audience auditioning guys for Hayden's latest live-action drama. Akio was Hayden's best friend, his assistant, and also a damn good cameraman.
It was the last day of the winter cosplay convention in Tokyo. Hayden figured it was as good a place as any to hold a casting call. He not only owned the biggest live-action production company in town, but he was also a big fan of manga and anime. Standing on stage was someone dressed as Ciel Phantomhive from the manga and anime, Black Butler. It was one of his favorite mangas.
"It's just a coincidence," Hayden said, since he was dressed as Ciel's butler, Sebastian. "But I think he would be perfect as Arata Fujimoto."
"The lead character?" Akio asked.
Hayden nodded. "He would do justice to Eiichi Honda's manga, The Maid's Cafe." Hayden had never met the mangaka, but he'd gotten the rights to produce the live-action version about a year ago.
"How can you tell? One of his eyes is covered with a patch."
In the manga, the character Ciel wore one. "Look at him. He's petite, has good bone structure, and could pull the part off better than someone with a larger frame." Hayden had already cast the other maids. He had to have this guy, preferably in his bed.
"Number sixty-nine, please come forward," Hayden said. The young man walked toward the mic. "Have you ever acted before?"
"I've done a couple of commercials and I've been in several cosplay documentaries."
Oh my God, that voice. Not high pitched or scratchy, just sexy as hell. "Have you ever heard of The Maid's Cafe?"
The guy nodded. His long bluish-black bangs spilled over the patch. He brushed the hair aside. "It's a manga by Eiichi Honda," he said in perfect English.
That little bang action fucked with Hayden's mind. If he thought this guy was attractive before, he was definitely enamored with him now. "Give him a script." Akio went to the edge of the stage and handed one to him. "Turn to page twenty-five and read for me." Hayden got out of his seat and walked up the stairs.
"Hello, and welcome to the Maid's Cafe. My name is Arata and I'll be your server for today."
Hayden read the next part. "It's nice to meet you, Arata. My name is Hiroshi Matsouka. What do you recommend?" Hayden stopped next to the guy, trying to imagine him with brown eyes and maybe longer hair like the Arata character had. The vision gave him an instant hard-on.
"Some nice chamomile tea. It's very relaxing."
He had good acting skills and wonderful facial expressions. Hayden looked deeply into his eye. "Will you join me for a cup and be my uke?" In yaoi, the uke was the bottom or passive character. Semes were the tops and dominant ones. He pulled the young man to him like the character had done in the manga. The guy's scent was like a breath of fresh air.
"Yes," the budding actor said. "I'd be delighted."
The smile was genuine. Hayden swooped down for the kiss. The people in the audience clapped. Hayden didn't want the kiss to end. This guy had the softest lips and tasted like mint.
Akio tapped him on the shoulder. "Ah, Hayden, that's the end of the scene."
Hayden finally stopped kissing the younger man. Both of them were breathing hard. The other guy looked a bit bewildered but not freaked out. "You got the part. What's your name?"
"Eiichi Honda," the dude in his arms said.
Hayden set him back on his feet. "Just like the mangaka?"
Eiichi nodded. "I am him. I was attending the convention and ended up here. You're a great kisser. You make a perfect Hiroshi, too. You even look like him." He bowed. "I look forward to seeing my manga come to life."
"Do you want to be in my live-action drama?" Hayden asked.
Eiichi looked at him oddly. The one blue eye zeroed in on him. "You want me to be?"
Hayden nodded this time. "Who better to play the part than the guy who created it?"
"This is so strange," Akio said, handing Eiichi a contract.
"I'll have my lawyer look over it. When do you need it back?"
"Saturday," Hayden answered. He took out a card with his address on it and handed it to him. "You can bring it to my place then we can discuss it over dinner."
Eiichi raised an eyebrow like he was considering Hayden's proposition--the one that didn't have anything to do with acting. Eiichi smiled at him. "You make a very good Sebastian, too. Have you cast the other characters yet?"
Hayden nodded. "You're going to love them. I'll have them come by Saturday, too, so you can meet them. How about five o'clock?"
"Okay," Eiichi said. "But I really must go. I came with a friend and he must be going crazy trying to find me." He bowed. "It was nice to finally meet you, Hayden Barnes."
He spoke English a little too well for a Japanese citizen. He was a great kisser, too.
"Why do I have the feeling this is going to turn out scandalously?" Akio asked.
"What do you mean?" Hayden asked, watching Eiichi leave the tent.
"A gorgeous mangaka and a handsome producer working together as actors on a live-action Boy Love drama. That in itself sounds like a BL manga."
"Do you believe in love at first sight?" Hayden asked his friend.
"He's a guy," Akio reminded him.
"They make the best kind of lovers," Hayden whispered.
Akio stomped off, mumbling something in Japanese.
Hayden sent all the other actors away. His cast was nearly complete and his future husband had been chosen.
"What do you mean you're going to star in Fantasy Production's new live-action drama?" Jiro Moto asked Eiichi as they traveled home after the first day of the convention had ended.
The hot host was dressed as Beast Boy from the cartoon Teen Titans--green-tinged skin and all. "I just went in to meet Mr Barnes and the next thing I know, someone stuck at number on me and pushed me toward the stage. He asked me to read for him then he kissed me."
Jiro stopped walking toward the bus stop. "What?"
"He kissed me--and not some friendly peck on the cheek."
"What did you do?" Jiro asked.
"I let him," Eiichi admitted. "People in the audience apparently have read my manga and didn't freak out the way I thought they might." They started walking again.
"Is he a good kisser?" Jiro asked.
"The best," Eiichi answered. "It wasn't fake, either. You know, the kind like they do in K-Dramas. He was all up on me, holding me in his arms and giving me plenty of tongue action."
Jiro turned to him and made a face. "Let me guess. He's gay."
Eiichi shrugged. "I'm about ninety-nine percent sure that he is. The erection was a dead giveaway."
"So, are you interested?" Jiro asked.
Eiichi shrugged again. "I'm not really looking for a lover at the moment, but he is handsome as fuck."
Jiro laughed. "Stop being stuck up. The man is going to turn one of your books into a live-action drama. The least you can do is let him check out the goods."
Eiichi tried to see behind him. "The goods, as you call them, are squeezed into these tight black pants. I can't wait to get home to get out of this costume." When he wasn't writing, drawing manga, or attending cosplay conventions, Eiichi worked part-time in a coffee shop and dessert cafe. Jiro had worked there too until he'd gotten a job being a host at a nightclub and started dating a rich guy. Jiro was off tonight, but Eiichi had to show up for work around six in the morning to help open the shop.
"Are you hesitating because he is an American?" Jiro asked.
"Not really. If I like a person, nothing else matters. It's been a long time since I've--"
"It's like riding a horse," Jiro said to him. "Once you fall off one cock, you climb up on another the same way." They finally made it to their bus stop.
Eiichi tried to keep a straight face. He wasn't shy, embarrassed, or in the closet. But the guys he'd come across lately had only been interested in having a one-night stand, and Eiichi was looking for someone to grow old with. He'd done his research on Hayden Barnes before selling the movie rights for his manga to him. The man had been in the country for at least ten years and he didn't have a police record. Their lawyers had taken care of everything. Now Eiichi kind of wished he would have been at the signing so he could have laid eyes on Hayden earlier. Hopefully, he would get a good look at him on Saturday. It would be interesting to find out if brown was his true eye color or not.
Their bus finally arrived. Eiichi and Jiro hopped aboard, found two seats, and settled back for the ride. Currently, they both lived near Shinjuku Ni-chomeâ€¦the hub of Tokyo's gay subculture. The club where Jiro worked was there and every so often they would meet with their friends for drinks. Jiro had tried to talk him into working at one of the host clubs in the area, but Eiichi didn't want guys or women fawning over him at night and plying him with enough alcohol to rot his liver and kidneys. He was perfectly content working during the day at the cafe a couple of mornings a week and spending his evenings at home watching television and creating manga.