The first thing that he heard was the excited chatter of two teenage girls, who seemed to more than appreciate the good looks of a drummer. He wondered which drummer they were talking about, stopping in surprise when he heard the name Yoshiki mentioned. Yoshiki, could it be the same one?
“Are you talking about X Japan?” He called out, startling the two girls.
“X Japan?” The shorter girl asked, “They’re just X.”
“Of course, just X,” He repeated. “You’re right, the drummer is gorgeous.”
“He’s one of them,” The taller girl remarked, giving the stranger a wary look before encouraging her friend to walk away. For a second the traveller stopped, wondering if they knew more than they let on, before realising that the comment had been entirely homophobic. How quaint, such notions didn’t exist in his own time. Neither did the notion of X Japan being a new band. He hadn’t missed the poster the girls had been staring at, advertising the band’s debut album. 1988, he hadn’t been here before.
“Amateur mistakes,” Scolded a man behind him. Startled he turned and took in the stranger’s appearance. Like him, he was dressed timelessly in black, giving nothing away about his origins. He wore his hair long too, longer than his own but without any facial hair. They were the same, his expert eyes recognised the signs of a traveller instantly, though he had never met this man before. “You should have learnt to keep all political, religious and otherwise possibly controversial opinions quiet until your familiar with the time. That I can forgive, but getting X’s name wrong? I almost take it as a personal insult!”
“The name wasn’t wrong, just out of time,” He defended himself against the stranger. “Who are you anyway, I would have remembered a man like you.”
“Because you’re one of them, a homosexual,” The stranger agreed, “It’s fine, I don’t mind that you find me sexy.”
“I never said such a thing!” He protested. “Don’t put words into my mouth.”
“I’m not, I’m putting thoughts into your head,” The stranger answered. “I’ll even give you a name for your wet dreams, Sugizo.”
“Well, Sugizo,” He commented, “Even if I had found you sexy, a matter for debate, I certainly wouldn’t be attracted to you now.”
“All lies,” Sugizo teased. “Come on, I showed you mine, show me yours! What’s your name?”
“J,” He answered with a sigh. “I’m part of the Luna Sea Mission, as are you.”
“That’s right,” Sugizo agreed. “Are you new? You’re showing the signs.”
“I’ve been doing this for two life years,” J protested, “Hardly new.”
“Try seventeen,” Sugizo bragged. “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager.”
“And yet you still don’t know how to greet another operative.” J mocked.
“Just because I haven’t spread my legs for you yet,” Sugizo answered, “You haven’t even bought me a coffee!”
“I would never buy you a coffee!” J protested. “Why would I?”
“Because you want me,” Sugizo answered. “But perhaps here is not the time or place. Let’s see, I’ll see you on the 3rd March, 2023, outside that station at 3PM.”
“You will not.” J protested, but Sugizo smiled and gave him a wave goodbye.
Once again J was on a street, this one made of copper and iron which allowed the vehicles to hover along with restriction. Efficient but still a rather crude way to travel. At least they weren’t burning fossil fuels anymore, he wondered if they still had any left. The early 22nd century was a time of innervation, but they still got a lot wrong.
“J!” An excited voice called out, making him turn to greet his friend. Ryuichi was part of the mission too and a much more welcomed companion than Sugizo had been. The ego on that man! Did he honestly think he was going to turn up in 2023 to buy him coffee? He had another thing coming!
“What are you here for?” Ryuichi asked, “Perhaps we can work together?”
“There’s a scientist about to make a major break in cancer research, or to give entirely.” J answered.
“A time flux,” Ryuichi said with a smile, referring to one of the thousands of points in history their mission had steered onto the right track. They only ever went back in time, building their own time as it was by carefully steering the past. “I was only here for supplies.”
“Help me then,” J said, knowing Ryuichi would happily do so. “Actually, while we’re here. Have you ever met a man named Sugizo?”
“Ah, the guy who’s been doing this longer than the two of us put together? I’ve had more than a few meetings,” Ryuichi answered. “Why, has something happened?”
“I met him, for the first time, a life day ago,” J answered. “He’s the most egotistical man I’ve ever met!”
“Really? You don’t like him? He only had nice things to say about you. He told me you were friends,” Ryuichi remarked. “Perhaps things change?”
“It’s so frustrating,” J said with a sigh, “The mission ensures we always meet in life year chronological order, but that doesn’t mean the Sugizo you met wasn’t many life years older than mine!”
“That might be the case,” Ryuichi said. “I’d give him a second chance, he may just surprise you.”
“I don’t know how he would,” J answered. Perhaps they had got off on the wrong foot? It was true he barely knew Sugizo, was he wrong to judge him so quickly?
He arrived at the stadium as Sugizo had ordered, finding the other time traveller had already arrived. Sugizo had his back to him, so he was able to observe the other for a moment before making his decision to go and greet him. What harm could be done? At worst he would know for sure that Sugizo was exactly what he thought he was; an arrogant brat who needed to be knocked back a peg or two. Sugizo turned and smiled at him, reminding him just how beautiful he was.
“It’s about time, you owe me cake now for keeping me waiting,” Sugizo scolded him. “I’ve already chosen.”
“I never said I would buy you anything,” J corrected, not overly surprised when Sugizo grabbed his arm and began to lead him down the street. “Besides, even if I had agreed to buy you coffee, what time traveller cares about waiting? No matter what time I left, I would have been here at exactly 3PM.”
“Don’t you ever want to experience time normally?” Sugizo asked, letting J’s arm go now the other was obediently walking at his side. “To wait for friends, for the days to pass in order? If I lived three weeks and met an old friend, I have no idea if they are three weeks older or three years! It’s frustrating.”
“I’ve seen so many marvellous things, experienced so much, it hardly feels a sacrifice.” J answered. “Perhaps you need to find someone to travel with?”
“A partner?” Sugizo asked, “Well aren’t you forward! We’re not even at the coffee shop and already you’re pledging your life to me!”
“I never said that!” J complained. “Why must you do this? Turn everything I say into some kind of romantic advance!”
“I do no such thing,” Sugizo lied. “Here it is, the best coffee shop I’ve ever found.”
“That’s high praise,” J replied, “But-“
“Stop dawdling!” Sugizo scolded, “Go order me that cake and a coffee.”
“You’re a brat, has anyone ever told you?” J complained, sighing as Sugizo gave him a smile and went to claim a table. He was supposed to become friends with him? How did that ever happen? Even so, he ordered the food and drinks and carried the tray over to the table where the other man was waiting for him again.
“This cake is good enough for you to fuck me tonight,” Sugizo declared, “Well almost.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” J answered, no longer willing to fight Sugizo’s ego. Let the other think he was desperate to have him, he knew the truth. He would never sleep with such an arrogant man, not ever.
“Yes, like that!” Sugizo moaned after J angrily kissed him. Disgusted with himself, J pulled back and glared at the other man. Sugizo had been winding him up for the last hour, bringing out a side of himself that he hadn’t known existed. He’d kissed him only to shut him up but he saw now that it hadn’t worked. Sugizo was just as irritating as ever, perhaps more so now J had given him what he clearly wanted.
“Go fuck yourself,” J found himself snapping. “You’re nothing but a spoilt child!”
“If I’m a child, why kiss me?” Sugizo asked. “Admit it J, your lonely. I can change that, travel with me. Please?”
“Why would I want to?” J asked, preparing to leave the coffee shop. It had been a mistake coming here, Ryuichi was wrong to believe that he and Sugizo would ever be friends. Perhaps his friend was under the wrong impression.
“I have no one,” Sugizo answered. “No family, no friends that stick around. I need someone and I like you. Please J? I know you don’t like me but travelling with someone who hates you is better than travelling alone.”
“Perhaps you would have someone, if you weren’t so annoying.” J suggested.
“You’re not so perfect yourself,” Sugizo retorted. “You insult me without even realising how hurtful you’re being! You won’t even admit that your attracted to me! People have lusted after me my whole life, since I was six at least, I know the signs. You should be honoured I’m interested in you at all!”
“Since you were six?” J repeated, growing pale as he realised what Sugizo was implying. The other had no idea what a real relationship was. He’d said it himself, he had no one he could trust, no one who cared about him. Was his ego his way of handling the pain? To think, he would rather travel with someone that hated him than alone. He was a brat, there was no denying that, but this time J understood why that was. “That’s horrible.”
“I’m over it.” Sugizo answered, though it was far from the truth. If he’d know, he would have been nicer to Sugizo from the start. As it was, he found himself agreeing to something that he never would have thought he would have.
“Do you want to travel with me?”
They met at the coffee shop, as they often did, sharing their latest adventures with glee. J had been travelling with Sugizo on and off for the last few months and they had quickly grown to be true friends. Sugizo still irritated him at times but for the most part his ego had started to seem almost charming.
“Your favourite cake,” J said, placing the tray down and giving Sugizo an honest smile. “All this sugar can’t be good for you.”
“I’ll find a way to burn the energy off,” Sugizo promised, leaning over and kissing J before abandoning him entirely for his favourite treat. Rolling his eyes, J took his coffee and watched the people outside pass by. Times may change, people would come and go, but there was one thing that he knew would always be true; Sugizo would always return to his side. He was his partner in every definition of the word and as irritating as it was to admit it, Sugizo had always been right on one thing; He had always lusted after him.