The Way of the Samurai
by Fanny Adams
A birthday story for Sammie -- sorry it's late kid. With special thanks to Betty for all the books, articles and information; and to Ryuichi Sakamoto for divine inspiration. A part of the Fox and Wolf series -- alternate universe with a vengeance, folks
A banked fire;
It is deep night;
Knocking at the gate.
Odawara, September 1963
Donguri giggled as she painted Bodie's face with the white oshiroi and fitted the wig over his close-cropped curls. By the time she finished with him, he looked like a blue-eyed geisha, white-faced and painted like a porcelain doll. No one who saw him would have guessed he was a boy. But the moment he moved he shattered the illusion, and the other geisha, who had gathered to watch Donguri transform him, chattered behind painted fans and laughed at his awkwardness. To a fifteen year old boy away from home for the first time, the company of women so exotic was terribly exciting. They straightened the kimono and obi, stroked his cheek and treated him like a pampered pet. "Pretty like a girl," they said, and giggled behind their hands.
Donguri taught him how to take little steps with his toes pointed inwards. He did his best to copy her, but the unfamiliar layers of cloth hampered every movement. "Make silk rustle nice. You do okay," she assured him with a laugh. She led him into the shabby tearoom where his shipmates were drinking sake and flirting with the other geisha.
George Greer, captain of the Langdon, Bodie's ship, was too interested in his sake to notice, and Bodie was disappointed. He had agreed to play this role at Greer's insistence. So when more sake was called for, he asked Donguri to let him take it to the Captain. He would get Greer's attention one way or another.
All might have gone well if one of the others hadn't caught hold of the hem of Bodie's kimono as he passed. Bodie went down in a tangle of silk and the crash of breaking glass to land at the feet of a man standing in the doorway.
He looked up into a pair of beautiful, dark eyes set in a sculpted face.
The man squatted, reached out and pulled off Bodie's wig, then he smiled. "Otoko geisha," he murmured. "Are you hurt?"
"Bodie, you great clown, get up!" Greer roared, to the amusement of the other crew members who fell about laughing.
Bodie patted the obi. "Well-padded. Did I spill on you?" He was a little disconcerted to find the stranger attractive, to feel the first stirrings of something which, though he couldn't put a name to it, affected him deeply.
The man shook his head and helped Bodie to his feet. His unwavering gaze made Bodie uneasy. Already the broken glass was being cleared away, and Donguri and the others were serving more sake all around. "Come, sit with me." He drew Bodie away from the larger room to a small, private tea-room.
"My name is Hara Joji," the man told him.
"So, Bodie William, why did you decide to become a geisha?" He had a cheerful, open smile which made Bodie feel unaccountably shy.
"It was the Captain's idea, really," he admitted. "Seemed like a lark."
"You still have much to learn if you want to continue in the profession." The man's accent was more Oxbridge than Osaka.
For just a moment Bodie thought Hara might be serious. Then: "You having me on?"
Hara sipped his sake. "Did you know that there were male geisha long ago?"
Bodie loosened the obi. "No."
"I doubt any of them were as beautiful as you are, though. They weren't meant to be." He reached out and wiped away some of the white makeup. "You need no ornamentation, I think."
And with that touch, Bodie knew what Hara wanted. He accepted a cup of sake.
"Sake no hitotsu ga, En no hashi..."
"A song. One cup of sake, The beginning of a relationship."
For just a moment he was afraid that he was swimming in water too deep. "I'm fifteen years old," he confessed in a whisper.
Greer found them. "You planning on staying here permanently?" He was standing over Bodie, scowling. "I'm leaving. You'd better change if you're coming."
"Captain, will you join me?" Hara gestured to the place opposite himself. "I wish to discuss a business matter."
It captured Greer's attention. "Business?" He sat down awkwardly, a little drunk and not pleased to see someone else hunting in his territory.
"Indeed. You have something I want. I think I can make you an offer that would satisfy all concerned."
Bodie listened to them bartering with his life with a strange detachment; he was more interested in watching Hara. The man had a face like a fine porcelain mask -- narrower and more sharply defined than the faces of most of the Japanese men Bodie had seen. It was utterly unreadable just then. His eyes were large and velvety black, rimmed with long lashes and accented with emphatic black brows. Hara's mouth was a perfect cupid's bow, which softened the general sharpness of his features and gave him an air of sensuality. His skin was deep gold, and with his slick cap of black hair, he reminded Bodie of a small hunting cat. The only incongruity was his ears -- they stuck out slightly. Bodie decided he liked them. There was something pristine about Hara, something that made Bodie think of snow. Beside Hara's elegance, the unshaven Greer looked coarse and dirty.
The deal was concluded quickly, and Hara placed a stack of bills on the table.
"Do you have anything on the ship?" he asked. "We should fetch it now if you do."
"Don't I get to choose?" Bodie asked them without heat. It was a rhetorical question for he'd already made his choice.
"No." Greer reached for the money.
Hara's hand shot out and caught Greer's wrist. "Yes. Though I thought I knew your mind."
Bodie hesitated only a moment. "Oh, I'm staying," he told them. "I just wanted to know where I stand."
Hara nodded and released Greer.
"There's nothing of mine on the ship," Bodie told him. "No reason to go back."
"You be nice to him, lad," Greer warned as he pocketed the money. "Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Hara."
Hara's little bow was faintly ironic.
Bodie went off to change. The clothes he wore and the copy of "Idylls of the King" tucked into his back pocket were all he owned in the world. In six months at sea, he'd seen the inside of the ship and a dozen waterfront dives. Life with Hara had to offer more; it could hardly offer less. And at fifteen, Bodie was hungry for all sorts of new experiences. As he walked back to the small tea-room where Hara waited, he glanced through a shoji screen left ajar and saw Greer sitting beside Donguri, fondling her while she played the shamisen.
"Your Captain decided to stay after all," Hara observed. Cat-quiet, he had come up behind Bodie and was standing very close. His voice, pitched low, could not be heard by the Captain or the woman. "He had already spent the money I gave him. She is a korobi; what we call a rollover geisha," he added. "Are you ready to go?"
"I don't live in Odawara," Hara told him as they got into his Mercedes.
Hara's home -- a large, old-fashioned place -- was in a town called Mishima. They were greeted at the door by a middle-aged man with a greying moustache.
"Yoshi, this is Bodie. He will be staying for a time."
"Hai." Yoshi bowed to Bodie a little more deeply than Hara had.
"This is an opportunity for us to practice our English," Hara added, but privately, Bodie thought that Hara's English was probably better than his own. Hara removed his shoes at the door and Bodie did the same, toeing off his sneakers and kicking them into a corner.
"Yes, Hara-san." Yoshi turned to Bodie. "You are welcome, Bodie-san."
"Thank you, Yoshi-san," Bodie replied.
Yoshi grinned at him.
"Yoshi, I would like a bath. Perhaps Bodie will join me?" He turned a questioning look on Bodie who nodded.
Yoshi made a little bow and disappeared.
The house, though outwardly much the same as all the others in the area, was furnished eclecticly with a mix of Oriental and Western furniture. There were books everywhere and Bodie hoped they weren't all in Japanese.
Hara led him to a modest bedroom. "This is yours," he said, and Bodie was surprised at the space he'd been allocated. After fifteen years of sharing with two older brothers, and six months in the Captain's tiny quarters, the room seemed more than generous.
"It's wonderful," he breathed. "Thank you."
"There is a yukata -- a robe -- in that chest. Bring it with you. The bath is at the end of the hall."
Bodie took a few minutes to pace the boundaries of his new territory. It was austere, certainly, but elegantly beautiful as well. The few pieces of furniture -- double bed and bedside table, small chest, desk and chair -- were expensive-looking. There were flowers on the bed-table, fresh and fragrant. He'd never known such luxury. He took the robe and hurried off to the bath.
Yoshi was there, in the little anteroom. He took the yukata and hung it on a peg. "Your clothes?"
"Give me your clothes," he told Bodie.
"Sorry, my English is not so good. You take..."
"No, I understand. I was just surprised, is all." He began to unbutton his shirt.
"You are from Rondon...sorry, London?" he asked, straining over the unfamiliar language.
"No, Liverpool." He stepped out of his jeans.
"Liver-pool. It's north of London."
"I will find on the map," Yoshi promised, gathering Bodie's clothes. "You go in now."
He stepped into a big, wood-paneled room dominated by a large wooden bathtub. Hara was already soaking in it.
"Wash first," Hara told him as Bodie moved toward the tub. He pointed at a bucket of water atop a stool in the center of the room.
"Your hair, too. You have to be clean to bathe in this country. A furo is for soaking."
Bodie found a cake of brown soap, bottle of shampoo and a bathbrush beside the stool, and he lathered and scrubbed himself thoroughly. Hara was watching him, and it made him feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.
"Rinse with the water in the bucket. If you need more the tap is over there." He pointed towards the wall. "Don't worry, there's a drain in the floor."
"You ought to have a shower put in, you know. Very handy." When he'd finished, Bodie climbed into the tub. "Squeaky clea... Christ! that's hot!"
"You'll grow to like it."
"So, where'd you learn to speak English like an Englishman?"
"Rondon," Hara replied with a cheeky grin. "My parents settled there before the war. English is a second language for me. Tell me about yourself."
Bodie lay back in the steaming water and shut his eyes. "Youngest of five kids. Da's a dockworker like everyone in Liverpool." He shrugged. "Not much else. Been at sea for six months, but it wasn't as good as I thought it'd be. 'aven't seen much of the world...in the geographical sense." He began to feel wonderfully relaxed in the steaming water.
"You seem to know why I brought you here."
"Same reason Captain signed me on, I reckon. No surprises there."
"How sad. Still, I hope you're old enough and wise enough to understand the futility of blackmail threats."
"Because of my age? Sure. They'd send me back home, wouldn't they?"
"And you don't want that."
"Fate worse'n death," Bodie confided.
"What do they call you at home?"
He made a face. "Willy or Bill. I hate 'em both. Phil's okay or Andrew. It's William Andrew Phillip," he explained. "Bloody awful, innit?
"I knew an Andrew in London. He was called Drew."
"Not bad," Bodie decided. He couldn't help wondering if Drew had been a special friend. "You can call me that if you want. What do they call you?"
"Hara-san. You may call me Hara for the time being."
"That tells me, doesn't it?" Bodie murmured.
Hara shut his eyes. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that I'm a democratic man just because I lived in your country."
They soaked in the hot water for half an hour more, both content with silence. Bodie discovered, to his delight, that the furo gave off a subtle fragrance of its own. He shut his eyes and drifted in a pleasant fantasy of floating in a hot spring in the centre of a pine forest. Finally Hara said, "there are towels in the corner," clearly signaling to Bodie that the bath was over.
As they dried themselves, Hara touched Bodie's shoulder fleetingly. "I will come to you tonight, if you agree," he whispered.
Bodie nodded, aware of an unfamiliar knotting sensation in his stomach. He went out into the anteroom and pulled on his yukata. For all his show of self- assurance, the prospect of bedding with Hara was unnerving. Greer had sought out a passive partner to ease the stress and boredom of the job. He'd been content simply to rub up against Bodie's belly or backside, come with a grunt of relief and roll over to sleep like the dead until he had to return to duty. Bodie had the feeling that Hara would be far more demanding. Still, there was no use in wondering if he was up to it. He'd made a free choice and would have to abide by it for a while. He thought about the stack of bills that had changed hands earlier and realized that he might just might have to abide by his choice for quite a long time.
He went back to his room, stripped, and climbed into bed, pulling the covers up to his chin. Some minutes later, Hara entered the room. He was wearing a dark blue robe patterned with white cranes.
He stared at Bodie lying rigid under the covers. "Very alluring," he observed with mild humour. "Please try not to look so apprehensive. I'm not a sadist."
"I'm a little nervous," Bodie said, unnecessarily.
Hara sat on the edge of the bed. "It's best we understand each other from the beginning. What is the extent of your experience?"
"You mean, how much have I done? How much is there?"
At last, the unflappable Hara flapped. "Oh, dear. You can't be virgin, can you?"
Bodie propped himself up on his elbows. "Let me be straight with you; Greer was the first and all he ever did was rub up against me. I'm not quite a virgin," he admitted, "but I'm not quite not."
"Demi-vierge, as the French would say. Not one thing nor another, precisely."
He felt suddenly defensive. "You couldn't have reckoned me to be lily-white, but I'm a little young to be an experienced tart," he snapped.
"It's not a problem, merely a surprise. We have a tradition -- mizu-age..."
"Yeh, an we 'ave one too -- 'ow's yer father. It's all pretty much the same thing, innit?" Bodie grumbled. He wished Hara would just get on with it.
Hara left the room for a moment. When he returned he was carrying a bottle. "We should be a little patient with each other," he observed as he poured a glass of liquor for each of them. "Mizu-age is an old tradition. It is the sexual initiation of a geisha, which is charmingly appropriate under the circumstances."
"Live and learn," Bodie replied with ill humour.
Hara handed him a glass. "It is traditional for the patron, that's me, to consume the yolks of three eggs each night for a week."
"Eggs? Raw?" Bodie made a face.
Hara nodded. "The whites are used to, ah, lubricate the passage and teach the initiate..."
"That's me," Bodie added, grinning in spite of himself.
"...to relax. In lieu of yolks, the brandy is adequate fortification." He took a large swallow of the amber liquid.
Bodie did the same. "And in lieu of whites?"
"KY jelly." Hara pulled a tube from the belt of his yukata.
Bodie began to giggle.
Hara put the glasses on the bedside table and rolled Bodie onto his side. "I shall try not to hurt you. Tell me if I do." His hand caressed Bodie's backside and slipped between the cheeks to probe the tiny opening.
A finger slipped into him, slick with the lubricant. The sensations were pleasant enough, but hardly arousing. Hara continued to slide one finger into, out of and around the ring of muscle for several minutes. Then he withdrew his hand.
"This is mizu-age," he whispered. "Sleep well." Without another word he was gone.
Bodie lay there without moving for several minutes. That's it? he wondered. Seven nights of finger fucking?
He rolled over and settled himself for sleep. The Japanese were a strange people, he decided.
He slept hard for many hours, and when he woke, sunlight was streaming into his room, falling across the covers of his bed. A door had been opened near hs bed, and the breeze that drifted through was cool and scented with the flowers of autumn -- marigolds and chrysanthemums. They had a strange smell -- earthy and potent -- not flowery at all. He could hear water running outside. He pulled on the yukata and wandered out.
Yoshi was raking gravel into interesting patterns and gathering up fallen leaves.
"Good morning, Bodie-san."
"Just Bodie, all right?"
"O-kay," Yoshi agreed.
"This the garden, then?"
"Nice. Why're you raking the stones?"
"This," Yoshi gestured at swirling patterns, "water moving. That water at resting." He pointed to unraked gravel surrounding low shrubs. "Water very important to the spirit, you see?"
"More or less. Where is Hara-san?"
"Dojo. Hara-san practisu kenjutsu. He is here later."
"Oh." Bodie sat down on the porch which ran around the house.
"I fix brrrekfasu for you?"
"Sounds good to me." He began to rise, but Yoshi gestured for him to sit.
"I bring," he promised.
Bodie sat for a while, then got up and wandered through the garden, carefully avoiding the gravel for fear of disturbing what Yoshi had laboured over. It was a peaceful place, very unlike the riotous English gardens he was used to, crowded with colour and fragrance. There was a maple tree in one corner and the leaves were just beginning to change colour. Further on, a gnarled old tree seemed bent under the weight of its bright red fruit. There were lanterns along the paths, and Bodie suspected that the garden would be magical by night. A large garden spider hung in its web inside a stone shrine.
As he wandered, the impact of what he'd done the night before hit him. He was alone in a very foreign country, had sold himself to a stranger who, despite his excellent English and British childhood, was as alien to Bodie as Donguri had been. He experienced a moment of fear, but the memory of all the things he'd left behind crowded into his thoughts and he found he couldn't regret his choice.
Yoshi stood on the porch, waving him back. Bodie walked up to the house.
"You want eating inside or here?" Yoshi asked as Bodie climbed the steps.
"Here, if it's all right."
"Yes." He ducked into the house.
A moment later Yoshi reappeared with a black- lacquered tray which he set on the porch beside Bodie. There was a bright red mug of tea, a lacquerware bowl of rice, a square, red-patterned porcelain plate containing something which looked like eggs and spinach, and a covered lacquer bowl. Bodie lifted the lid. Slivers of green onion floated in cloudy broth. It was soup.
"Well," he muttered to himself. "When in Rome..." He sipped the hot tea carefully and poked at the eggs.
"It won't bite." Hara was standing in the doorway watching him.
"What is it?"
"An omlette rolled with seaweed. You don't have to eat this if you don't want to. I can fix you some British grub." He grinned. "You see, my grasp of idiomatic English is superb."
"Nah, I'll have a bash. Looks interesting. Never thought of having seaweed and soup for breakfast."
"The soup is good, though some people consider it an acquired taste."
Bodie lifted the bowl and took a sip. The soup had an almost musky flavor, a little sour but not unpleasant. "I think I've had this before. It's miso, right?"
"We docked in Yokohama for a week before sailing south."
"Why did you stop in Odawara, then?"
Bodie shrugged. "Greer said he had business here. I'm glad we did. What sort of practice?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Yoshi said you were at practice, ken-something."
"A martial art. It's nothing to be concerned about."
"I wasn't concerned, only curious." He tried the omlette; it was a little sweet, but palatable. "What do you do all day? I mean, what do you do for a living?"
Hara sat beside him. He was looking particularly handsome in a shirt and divided skirt dyed with blue so dark it looked black in the shadow of the house. A white band was tied around his forehead. He looked exotic and dangerous, and Bodie found himself dwelling on the eventual result of mizu-age. "I have a private business," Hara replied. An evasive answer if ever Bodie had heard one.
"In other words, I should mind my own business. Forget I asked. I should ask what I'm expected to do when I'm not in bed with you." He could have sworn that Hara flushed slightly.
"What do you want to do?"
Bodie thought about it while he ate his rice. What he wanted, at that moment, was to pull Hara back into the bedroom and to hell with mizu-age. His body was sending him urgent messages. He'd never felt this way before. "I like to read," he said quietly.
"I have many books in English. Do you enjoy music?"
Bodie shrugged. "I like skiffle, but that's not the sort you have in mind, is it?"
Yoshi brought tea to Hara in a heavy, handleless white mug patterned with blue flowers.
"What on earth is skiffle?"
"What all the lads are playing back home," Bodie told him with a reminiscent smile. There were a few things he missed about home. "It's a great sound."
"How very enlightening. No, I had in mind something less contemporary." Hara sipped the tea and helped himself to a piece of the omlette.
"You want to teach me all sorts of things, don't you?"
This time Hara grinned. "With becoming patience, I hope. How do you feel this morning?"
It was on the tip of Bodie's tongue to say 'frustrated,' but he bit back the comment. He was here for Hara's pleasure -- whatever that was -- not his own. "Anxious for my next lesson." He slanted a coquetish look at his new protector.
"Then this is the perfect opportunity for you to begin cultivating patience as well. I have some business to attend to, but we shall continue this evening. Until then I suggest you get to know the house and garden." He set his cup down beside Bodie's, stood, and touched the top of Bodie's head with his long, delicate fingers. "If Yoshi is willing, you might go marketing with him. Mishima is a pleasant town."
Bodie watched him walk back into the house and sighed. It was supposed to be Hara who wanted Bodie, not the other way around. He carried his dishes out to the kitchen and washed them.
"You not needing to do that," Yoshi told him in his laborious English.
"I don't mind. Always did it at home." He dried his hands and watched Yoshi work.
"You tell me about this home... Rivapool?"
"Yeh, it's a seaport. Da and my brothers are dockworkers. Everyone is; that or sailors like me."
"You bery young for sailor," Yoshi observed.
"Wanted to see a bit of the world."
"Seeming to me you seeing more than you need, Bodie-san...Bodie," he corrected. "Your mama miss you, neh?"
Bodie thought about it. "I don't think she cares much," he admitted. With all the other kids at home, she might not have noticed he was gone. "Anyway, I like being my own man."
There was a look on Yoshi's face that made Bodie uncomfortable.
"Hara said you might take me along to the market."
Yoshi pulled a wicker basket out of the corner. "I take you to see bonraku. How you say?" He gestured helplessly. "Dolls moving with hands?"
"Just so -- puppets. Is very old art."
Bodie wasn't sure he was ready for a puppet show, but he kept his doubts to himself. "Yoshi, why does Hara-san live in a little place like Mishima? Why not Tokyo? He must have nothing but money," he added, more to himself than to Yoshi.
"You wait." Yoshi led him out the front door and pointed out and up.
It was an almost incomprehensible sight to a boy raised in a city like Liverpool. Dominating the horizon was a graceful, snow-topped mountain set against a sky so clear and blue that it seemed impossible that the scene could be real. "Fuji?" he asked, breathless with awe.
"Fuji. So now you know."
"How could anyone want to live anywhere else?" he wondered aloud as he walked backwards beside Yoshi. He couldn't keep his eyes off the mountain.
"Not even in Tokyo?" Yoshi teased.
"Not even in Rivapool."
Yoshi took him to the puppet theatre and promised to return for him within an hour. Bodie was uncomfortable and took a seat on an empty bench in the back. Still, he was aware of the other patrons watching him surreptitiously. The play was incomprehensible to him, but Bodie concentrated on the show with a fierce determination. If he was going to spend a lot of time watching puppets, he might as well learn to like it.
To his vast surprise, by the time Yoshi returned for him, he was caught up in the drama and didn't want to leave. Yoshi watched with him to the end of the play.
"You liked?" Yoshi asked, and he seemed pleased when Bodie admitted that he had.
"It was dead exciting, all that stuff about samurai. Do they play every day?"
Yoshi nodded. "I bring you again if you like. You want eating now?"
They stopped at a little shop and ate noodles and broth for their mid-day meal. Yoshi made loud slurping noises as he ate, and at first Bodie was embarassed, but then he realized that he was the only one in the place who was eating quietly. When in Rome he thought again, and began to eat with real enthusiasm. He ate two bowls of udon topped with fish and vegetables.
The rest of the afternoon he spent in Hara's library. He discovered that many of the books were in English, and began to make a stack of the ones he wanted to read.
About twilight Hara found him sitting next to the window, absorbed in "Brideshead Revisited." Hara looked through the stack of books that Bodie had set aside. "You have some wonderful things here. How was your day?"
"Informative. I saw, um...bunraku, is it?"
Hara nodded, and sat down on the floor beside him.
"And had lunch at a noodle shop, and was stared at a lot."
"They'll get used to you," Hara promised. "Brideshead? Have you read anything else by Waugh?"
"Haven't read much of what you'd consider important, I reckon."
"What makes you say that?"
"Mostly I've read kid's stuff; Stevenson, Kipling... things like that."
"Two of my favorites."
"Mmmm. Do you want to go on reading?" There was something in his eyes that Bodie recognized as desire.
He marked his place and closed the book. "I was losing the light anyway."
Hara's full lips curved into a smile. He nodded, rose and held out his hand. Almost withou thought, Bodie grasped it and followed him into the bedroom. Hara poured him a shot of brandy. "It will relax you," he promised.
Bodie laughed. His legs already felt like water. He stripped off the yukata and lay down on the bed.
Hara lay beside him and began to caress him, sliding gel-slick fingers into him.
"Have I hurt you?" Hara asked, genuinely concerned.
"It feels wonderful," Bodie breathed. "Don't stop." And this time the sensations were arousing. Bodie was amazed at how different it was this evening.
Hara's free hand closed over Bodie's half-erect organ and began stroking it gently, urging it up into a pulsing readiness. His fingers worked farther into Bodie and brushed something so sensitive that Bodie surged up with a cry and grasped Hara's shoulders.
"What did you do to me?" he demanded. "What was that?"
"I'll explain it to you later. Let yourself go with it, beautiful child."
Though he was strung out on sexual tension, Bodie forced himself to relax.
Hara's caresses remained undemanding until Bodie loosened up under his hands. He bent low over Bodie's groin and took the boy's cock into his mouth.
Hara's mouth and hands worked him over the edge, teaching him the very beginnings of adult sexuality, of pleasuring another human being. Bodie had never been touched in this way and it was a revelation.
He tried to explain this to Hara afterward, but the words weren't there. "Nobody ever cared enough to do that before," he said at last.
The next few days were much the same, always ending with his lesson. Each time Hara brought him a little further along, taking nothing for himself. Bodie began to wonder if they'd ever share this pleasure Hara was teaching him. He wanted to do for Hara what Hara had done for him, and he said so.
"I want to touch you," he stammered. It wasn't exactly what he meant, but Hara seemed to understand. He undressed and lay down on the bed beside Bodie.
"Do you want the light on or off?" Hara asked.
"Of course." Hara lay quietly while Bodie explored his body, and to Bodie's delight, Hara began to respond to the touches.
"Your skin is so beautiful," he said. "Such a nice colour, like honey."
Bodie traced the musculature with his hands; Hara was well-developed. That would be the practice sessions, he decided. He was surprisingly hairy. "I didn't expect... I'd heard..." He ran his fingers through silky black hair running from chest to groin.
"It's my mixed blood," Hara explained. "My mother's people are Ainu. You've heard of the hairy Ainu, haven't you? Well, my mother has a beard and moustache."
For a moment Bodie was stunned into silence. Hara's story was just outrageous enough to be true, and he was afraid to insult him by laughing. "She did?"
Hara snorted with laughter.
"You're incredibly sweet, Drew."
Bodie rubbed his face against Hara's chest. "An' you smell wonderful." Then he ran a tentative finger the length of the dark, honey-gold cock which rose between Hara's thighs. It quivered and surged upwards, and Bodie was pleased.
Hara shut his eyes and sighed. "You're a quicky study."
Bodie asked, "do you want to fuck me?"
"Yes. Do you want that?"
"You're not afraid?"
"Only a little," Bodie admitted.
They changed places and Hara knelt between Bodie's splayed legs. "Tell me if I hurt you." He probed gently with his fingers, again touching that secret spot inside Bodie that sent waves of indescrible pleasure through the boy.
"Jesus Christ!" he growled through clenched teeth.
Nothing could have prepared him for the sensation of being entered. It was a burning, a sweet ache. "Oh, yessss...."
Hara didn't move.
"You're not hurting me," Bodie assured him, and Hara began a slow thrusting motion. Bodie shut his eyes and drifted on the sensations. "How do you say 'kiss' in Japanese?" he whispered.
Hara stopped moving.
Bodie opened his eyes and laughed at the surprise on Hara's face. "What's the matter? Don't you people kiss when you fuck?"
"Seppu, kissu...either way."
Bodie could hear an accent now in the passion-rough voice. "Kissu," he said, wrapping his arms around Hara's neck and pulling the man down for a kiss.
Hara resisted, wedging his hands against the mattress and pulling away.
The unexpected rejection hurt terribly. "Romantic bugger, you are," he snapped, wondering what he'd done wrong. "Don't worry, I'm not asking for a weddin'. Get on with it, will you? The blood's rushin' out of my feet."
Hara withdrew, and Bodie felt even more bereft. He rolled onto his side and curled up into a ball. A moment later, he could feel Hara's body pressing against his back, and an arm slipped around his waist.
"I hadn't thought much about affection, much less romance," Hara admitted, softly. "I'm sorry."
"It's not important."
"If it was not important, the subject would not have arisen."
Bodie could feel the man's breath against his ear. Despite himself he melted into the warmth which seemed to encircle him. Hara kissed his ear.
"Kissu," he whispered. He reached between Bodie's legs and began to stroke him.
Bodie shut his eyes and surrendered to the incredible sensations. No one had ever touched him so intimately or so sweetly. The scattered and nebulous longings resolved themselves into a potent sexual heat that seemed to center in his groin and radiate outwards. He climaxed with a shuddering moan into Hara's hand. Only then did the man enter him again. Bodie was so relaxed that he barely felt the penetration. He was aware only of warmth and peace.
Hara came within him, and did not withdraw afterwards. He pulled the cover over them and they lay, tenuously connected by a link of flesh.
On the edge of sleep, Bodie was aware of another presence. Yoshi came to the door and looked in. Bodie read approval in the look Yoshi exchanged with Hara, and something else that felt like pity. He did not understand, nor did he much care just then.
Mishima, winter 1963/4
He stopped measuring time by the hour. Life was slower here and richer. In the morning, he woke when he was rested, and Yoshi fixed him breakfast. While it was still warm, Bodie ate in the garden and when the weather turned cold, he retreated to the kitchen, content with Yoshi's company and eager to learn Japanese from him.
When Hara returned from the dojo then would talk. Sometimes they walked in the garden, sometimes they sat together and Hara read to him, translating into English from one of the many volumes that filled the house. If Hara had business to attend to, Bodie read one of the books in English that Hara had given him.
He learned other things, too -- less concrete than language or etiquette -- but perhaps more important. He discovered that there was a rhythm to all life -- that of the day and the year, of the earth and of the body, of the universe and of the soul. He did not yet comprehend how they wove into intricate patterns, nor did he understand how to live in harmony with them. But he felt as though there would be time enough here to learn all his lessons.
The snow came sweeping down from the mountains, and cold penetrated the house. The garden lay under a blanket of snow. The only colour was the red of a few unpicked persimmons on the old tree. Sometimes Bodie would climb one of the trees and stare out over the house at Fuji, lying cool and still in the distance. On sunny days he would spend hours contemplating the mountain.
Bodie and Hara spent much of their time in bed or in the bath. Bodie began to learn the limits of pleasure.
Then one day there was a visitor. Hara must have been expecting the man because when Bodie woke, Hara was still in the house. The stranger came at mid-day and stayed for several hours.
Just before dusk, the man left the house, and Bodie was pleased for this was the time of day when Hara most enjoyed making love. Then they would dine and spend the evening reading or listening to music. With the stranger gone before supper, Bodie hoped that their routine wouldn't be disturbed. He slipped into the room where Hara was sitting alone, reading a file.
For a moment, Bodie could have sworn that there was no recognition in Hara's eyes. Then he seemed to remember who Bodie was.
"No, not now."
"I was afraid he'd stay."
"Because if he had stayed you wouldn't have made love with me before supper," he said simply.
"Oh, of course." The abstraction in his tone annoyed Bodie.
"If you don't want to..."
"I'm a little preoccupied," he pleaded. "Would you mind?"
"No," Bodie lied. He started out of the room. "Will I see you at supper?" he asked from the doorway.
"Perhaps. I don't know." Hara shut the file and slipped it into a desk drawer.
Bodie asked Yoshi who the stranger was.
"Oh, he coming here in past for business purposu. I think Hara-san will go away now for doing this businesu, you see?"
"Sort of. Yoshi, what is Hara-san's business?"
Yoshi frowned. "Hard to explain."
"Yoshi-san, I'll tell Bodie what he needs to know. Thank you." Hara entered the room and Yoshi left it quickly.
"Don't be angry with Yoshi. I asked him."
"I'm not angry. I just don't care to be discussed by my..." He paused and had the grace to look embarassed.
"By your servants? Don't worry, I know my place, Hara-san. You know what they call me in town? The gaijin yujo, or danshokuka. You see, I'm learning the language. Servant is a better word, don't you think?"
"You're old for fifteen."
"Yoshi said you'd probably go away for a while. Business trip?"
Hara nodded. "I'll be gone for four to six weeks."
Bodie permitted himself a smile. "Then we have a little time left together before you go." He licked his lips and tried to look alluring.
"I shall be very busy, Bodie. It would be best if I worked privately until my departure."
It was like a slap in the face. In a few words Hara had completely cut off the relationship. Bodie's temper flared.
"I see. Perhaps you'd rather eat by yourself, then, Hara-san." He made a little bow of the ironic sort -- one that he'd learned from Hara. "I'll take my meals elsewhere in future."
He rose and was about to leave when Hara caught his wrist, holding him in a grip so tight his fingers numbed.
"Who are you to speak to me that way?" Hara growled.
Bodie tried to pull free, but the strength of Hara's grip was too fierce. "I'm the rollover geisha." The hand tightened and a sharp pain raced up his arm. "Sorry," he whispered. The grip eased.
"You can eat anywhere you like," Hara told him, releasing his wrist with a gesture of indifference.
"I didn't mean it."
"You may go now."
He went back to his room and sat on the bed in the dark. He had almost forgotten how tenuous his position was. Hara had been kind to him, had never reminded him, as Greer had done almost daily, that his usefulness as a playmate was limited. "Get above yourself," Greer used to say, "and I'll toss you out on your arse to fend for yourself." And so, Bodie realized, would Hara.
It was odd, he thought as he sat alone in the dark, that Greer's promise had never had the power to hurt him this way.
From then until the time Hara left on his business trip, Bodie made a special effort to stay out of his way. He spent a lot of time in town at the market, or the puppet theatre. On bad days he stayed in his room and read, or hung around the kitchen watching Yoshi work. On the day Hara left, Bodie climbed the persimmon tree and watched him drive away.
Yoshi came out to the garden and gestured for him to come down. "I make you special tea," he told Bodie who was chilled by the damp breeze and longing for something hot.
They sat together in the kitchen and Bodie nursed a cup of Earl Grey. The familiar taste and scent of the tea tore at his heart. He began to cry silently, tears rolling down his cheeks to drop into the cup.
"He forget you still little boy," Yoshi said.
After the fireworks,
A falling star.
Mishima, Spring 1964
The time might have gone very slowly if it hadn't been for Yoshi's kindness. The older man taught him Japanese with tremendous patience and good humour. He also taught him how to cook, and when the weather permitted it, he took Bodie out into the garden and began to teach him about plants and gardening.
Yoshi also began to teach him mental discipline, though in so casual a way that only much later did Bodie realize how drastically he'd changed in the weeks Hara was gone. He learned to concentrate by performing the tasks Yoshi set for him, and he learned to focus his energies in the same way. Yoshi was patient but he was demanding, and Bodie learned that if he pruned one of Yoshi's precious bonsai, or cooked a meal without concentrating on what he was doing, he would hear about it. Yoshi always knew the difference.
Bodie found he spent less time fretting over Hara now he was gone than he'd done in the fortnight before his departure. But at night he missed the comfort of a human body nearby. Hara had never slept the night with him, preferring his futon to Bodie's western-style bed, but often he stayed until Bodie dropped off to sleep. Bodie began to wonder if Hara would want him when he returned. Perhaps this wasn't a temporary separation after all. Perhaps Hara had tired of him.
He looked in the mirror one day and wondered if he wasn't already too old. Despite Yoshi's words, Bodie was no longer a child.
He tried to sound Yoshi out on the subject. "Does Hara-san bring many boys home?" he asked.
"I never notice," Yoshi lied, and Bodie got the message.
And on the night Hara returned, nearly two months after he'd left, Bodie's worst fears were confirmed.
Hara arrived in a taxi which surprised Bodie until he realized that Hara was more than a little drunk. So was his companion -- a good-looking Japanese boy who was insufferably smug about being there. Bodie went off to his own bed without a word.
The sounds from Hara's bedroom were too much for him. He took a blanket and went out to spend a sleepless but undisturbed night in a little gazebo in a far corner of the garden. The sun was well up when he went back to the house, making directly for the kitchen.
"Where you sleep?" Yoshi asked, looking annoyed.
"I was out in the garden..."
"You catsu cold!"
"Yoshi, don't scold. Please." He felt miserable.
Yoshi gave Bodie a steaming bowl of miso soup. When Bodie had finished it he said: "Go, dress."
On the way to his room he ran into the new boy, who eyed him with a mixture of suspicion and smugness. He was naked and he flaunted his skinny body.
Bodie fought down the urge to deck him; then he smiled his most Japanese smile and murmured "bakayaro." The boy turned an unpleasant shade of purple and stalked off to the lavatory.
Bodie dressed in his jeans and workshirt both of which were now small on him, tucked a book in his back pocket and left the house. Just outside he caught sight of Fuji dominating the sky, cool and serene. 'I'll miss that,' he thought, 'I'll miss it all.'
He walked up to the road and stuck out his thumb. He managed to get a ride to Odawara, and with the help of his halting Japanese and the pidgin English of the natives, he found his way to the teahouse where he'd met Hara. He reasoned that if it was frequented by sailors, he might find someone who would sign him on another ship.
Donguri was surprised to see him in Odawara without Hara.
"You wait for him?" she asked.
"I've left him."
"Where you go now?"
He sat down on the step in front of the tea house. "Nowhere," he said. "I don't have any money. I hoped there was a ship in port that I could sign on."
"No ship in, I think. No sailors coming here for while. I give you some food, yes? But I not having any money."
When she brought back a bowl of rice and fish, she said: "you need...danna, you know?"
"Danna?" He ate quickly, surprised at how hungry he was.
She giggled behind her hands. "No, not rlover. Older man to take caring."
"Oh..." He thought about it. It was that, Bodie realized, or stand outside of one of the love hotels and hope for the best. "Can you suggest someone?" he asked, aware of the irony of it all.
"I think," she said, slyly.
He was introduced to the man in a rather formal setting. Donguri's okasan made the contact and arranged the meeting. Fortunately the man was nice enough. He was what Donguri had called a 'sarariman' and was dressed in an expensive three-piece suit. Very different from Hara, Bodie realized. Bodie made his little bow and said, in halting Japanese, how honoured he was to meet such a respected gentleman as Masuda-san. Masuda seemed pleased, and Bodie reckoned he could turn the trick without much trouble.
Donguri served drinks and acted as interpreter while Bodie and Masuda made small talk. The man seemed to know that Bodie had been living in Japan for several months, but he asked no questions about it. Finally the atmosphere changed and Bodie realized that he'd made the right impression. Masuda was willing to talk business.
But just as they began to negotiate, there was a commotion outside, and Hara burst in. He bowed, apologized for the unforgivable intrusion, and dragged Bodie out into the street, leaving Donguri to appease the jilted Masuda.
Hara hauled him to his car, shoved him in and climbed in after. Bodie began to shout at him, and Hara slapped him and told him to be quiet. They drove back to Mishima in silence.
Once in the house it was Hara's turn to shout. He cursed Bodie up one side and down the other in Japanese, English and several other languages. When he was finished he asked: "You have nothing to say?"
"Where's your new catamite?" Good word, that. Bodie was perversely pleased at having dredged it up at the right moment.
Hara's face was unpleasantly red and Bodie wondered if he was going to be slapped again.
"Why did you bring me back?" he asked. "You don't want me any more."
"You're a stupid boy."
"You stop sleeping with me, then bring someone else back here...it's pretty bloody obvious, innit? So why did you bring me back?"
"You belong to me," Hara growled.
"No. I belong to me. You may have brought me back, but you won't make me stay." He realized that Hara's temper was dangerously close to exploding. "If it'll make you feel better to bash me one, just do it. You won't be the first. And it won't stop me leaving, just slow me up a bit."
At that Hara seemed to deflate. He sat down and stared at Bodie for several minutes. Then he said, in a voice so low that Bodie nearly missed it, "when I found you were gone, I thought my heart would break."
Bodie felt old and brittle, suddenly. "Leaving you nearly broke my heart," he confessed.
For a moment, Hara seemed to be struggling with something. Then he said, "will you do me the honour of staying with me, Bodie-san?"
Relief flooded Bodie. "The honour will be mine, Hara-san. It's all I ever really wanted."
Hara took Bodie into his bed and kept him there all night. In the morning Bodie said he found the futon more comfortable than his own bed. It was a lie, of course, and Hara knew it. But he nodded and said with acceptable gravity that in that case, Bodie would have to share it with him in the future.
"Why did you bring that boy home, Hara?" Bodie asked later, as they lay in the bath, hot water relaxing overused muscles and unstable emotions.
Hara considered the question carefully. "I was afraid of what I felt for you, I suppose. It was foolish. I should have known that there was no escape; we've gone too far. Will you forgive me for the insult?"
Bodie smiled wanly. "I did a bit of insulting myself," he admitted. "But yes, of course I forgive you. I think I'd forgive you anything."
"I should ask you what you said to him to make him so angry. He came back and demanded that I kill you for the insult you offered him." He seemed amused by the memory.
Bodie grinned. "I called him bakayaro."
"Where did you learn that word?" Hara demanded, clearly scandalized.
"Ethics forbid me to reveal my sources. It worked, though, didn't it?"
"People have been murdered for using that word carelessly."
"I did not use it carelessly," Bodie insisted, running his toes up the inside of Hara's thigh. "I knew exactly what I was saying. Besides, he was unarmed," he added with a sly grin.
"You have naughty feet and a nasty tongue in your head," Hara remarked. He responded to the gentle pressure of Bodie's foot with a sigh of pleasure.
The smell of food cooking made Bodie aware of just how hungry he was. "Let's have breakfast in bed," he suggested to Hara as he dried himself.
"I'm not capable of denying you anything," Hara said with a laugh.
While they ate, Hara wrapped in a white robe and Bodie stark naked, cross-legged on the bed in Bodie's room, Hara observed with pleasure that Bodie was growing up.
"I thought that might put you off," Bodie confessed. "Some blokes like boys until they stop being boys, y'know?"
"I'm not a pederast."
Bodie gave him a sidelong look. "That kid wasn't very old," he observed.
"Older than you are."
"Pull the other one."
"He's eighteen, though I don't expect to be believed by a cynic like yourself," Hara teased. "These changes please me. I was bothered by your youth."
Bodie laughed. "I'm doing something right."
"I think now we have made en musubi -- a tying together of our destinies -- I must be honest with you. You wanted to know about my business. Bodie...Drew, I am an assassin."
Bodie was stunned. "You're never...are you?"
"I never expected...you're paid to...Jesus!"
"Perhaps I shouldn't have said anything," Hara murmured with obvious regret. "Does it make a difference?"
Bodie knew it was time for honesty. "I don't know. I've never thought about it before. Why do you do it? Just for the money?"
"Not entirely. I do not take every job that comes my way. And because of my beliefs, I do not find anything ...how shall I say it? Dangerous to the progress of my soul."
"Oh. Doesn't it bother you? Killing I mean."
"It's difficult to explain... I want to teach you something of the way of the samurai. Perhaps then you'll come to understand what I am."
Bodie couldn't help thinking that this was probably the strangest conversation he'd ever had. It was ll so abstract -- the death of strangers weighed against the sweetness of Hara's body moving against his own. There was no real choice for a boy his age in love for the first time. "Doesn't change things, does it?" he replied, though he wasn't quite sure of the truth of his words. I can get used to anything, he decided, seeing the relief on Hara's well-loved face.
"Thank you for understanding."
"I'm not sure understanding is quite the right word," Bodie mumbled. "Can we talk about something else, Hara?"
Hara smiled at him. "I want you to call me Joji. If you do not, I cannot call you by your given name."
"Hey, I've arrived." He was idiotically pleased.
"It's time you began to discipline your body and mind, Drew. You're not a child any longer."
"What d'you mean?"
"I would like you to join me when I work."
Bodie nearly choked on his rice. "Killing people?"
Hara began to laugh. "There I think you would never be more than a liability -- you were almost such on this last job. No, I mean all the things I must do to be fit for the job. I will teach you to shoot, to fight with your hands, with katana, and I will teach you the discipline of the mind." He made a wry smile. "Though I wonder if I am fit to teach that."
"Because the thought of you drives other, more important thoughts from my mind. I was nearly killed on this job because I found myself thinking of you at the wrong moment." He sipped his tea. "I was very frightened," he admitted, his words almost lost in the mug he held. "I had planned to send you away. But it is not possible to lose you. I hold you too dear." He set the mug down and rested his hands on his thighs. He looked like a statue. "I have never spoken to anyone in this way. Never so open. I think you understand me, Drew."
Bodie shrugged, a little embarassed by the emotion flowing between them.
"All the same, I was ready to let you go if it was your wish. But Yoshi... chewed me out, you would say. He is very fond of you. He told me that he would not remain in this house if I had driven you away. So, you see, you not only nearly cost me my life, you almost cost me my servant which is infinitely more serious."
"I love you too," Bodie blurted.
"Yes. That is what I have been saying."
Among the narcissus flowers;
A bright moonlit night.
Mishima, May 1964
For a time, though, there was no discipline, no practice but that involved in the acts of love. As they'd come to know each other's body before, they now learned each other's heart. Bodie, who had never been loved, or allowed to love, discovered in himself a dizzying capacity for that emotion.
It frightened him a little. A small voice of reason warned him to hold back a little, warned him not to trust emotion which robbed him of his sense of self. But for Bodie, giving meant giving all. At his age he could neither believe nor even comprehend that love was not eternal.
It was spring and everything around him, stirring with new life as he was, seemed beautiful to his young eyes. A saucer of tiny white narcissus beside their bed sweetened their nights.
He woke late one night to find Hara sitting beside him, writing in the light from a lantern. "What're doing?"
"Writing a poem." In the pale yellow light, Hara looked as though he had been cast in gold. Bodie realized suddenly that Hara was not very old himself.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. "'bout what?"
The feature in question curled into a lazy smile. "Nobody ever did that before."
"Then you have consorted with fools."
"Let me read it?"
Hara lay down beside Bodie and handed him the paper.
"It's in Japanese!"
Hara grinned. "I thought you were proficient in the language."
"Only cuss-words," Bodie replied, tartly. "Read it to me?"
"It works in Japanese, but in English it might seem a little awkward," Hara warned. Then he read aloud:
"'Child's smile becomes
'Seductive curve, lover's promise.
'Sweet, ripe, red cherry.'"
"Is that how you see me, really?" Bodie was surprised. "It's very...erotic."
"So is this," Hara insisted, running a gentle finger over Bodie's lower lip. He replaced his finger with his mouth and kissed Bodie until Bodie pulled away, breathless. "There. Sweet, ripe, red cherry. It's the way your mouth looks when you've been well-kissed."
"You should see yours," Bodie countered, touching Hara's full lower lip. "It looks succulent just now, like I could take a bite out of it."
They kissed again.
"I could stay here with you forever," Hara confessed. "I could forget everything. It frightens me."
So, Bodie thought, I'm not the only one. He found the admission comforting; it stilled that small, cautionary voice.
One morning, the awakening was earlier than usual.
"Drew, get up now. We start work today." Hara pushed the coverlet down and rubbed Bodie's bare shoulder.
Bodie pulled the cover over his head and concentrated on sleeping.
"Come on, sleepyhead."
"Sleepyhead? Oh, God, Joji... What's the time?"
"I'll be ready about mid-day," he promised.
"You're ready now." Hara hauled him out of the pile of bedding and dumped him on the floor. "Get dressed. I've left some clothes for you."
Bodie fumbled with the unfamiliar garments for several minutes before he groaned in frustration. "Help! What is all this stuff?"
"We're going to start with Kendo. This is the armor you need to keep from getting yourself split open like an over-ripe melon." He folded the band of the hakama until the garment was short enough. "It's a little large on you, but I don't suppose it'll hamper your movement."
"Do you always provide your sexual partners with armor?" Bodie teased.
Hara dressed him quickly and efficiently. "Only the ones with wicked tongues," he replied with a touch of acid. "If you're going to go about calling people bakayaro, you'd best learn to defend yourself." There was a spark of amusement in his eyes. The final touch was a hachimaki, a white headband. Hara tied it around Bodie's forehead, and kissed his ear. "You look beautiful. No one would guess what a lamb you really are."
"Hey, I'm tough!"
"That remains to be seen," Hara told him.
They walked to Hara's dojo, and Bodie was introduced to the head, an older man whom Hara called Sensei -- teacher. The Sensei was treated with great deference by everyone at the dojo. Hara explained that he wanted to teach Bodie the basics of kendo and asked if it was acceptable to the Sensei. The man agreed and directed them to an empty practice court.
"He didn't look happy about it," Bodie observed.
"If you learn something, he'll be happy. You'll work with him later if he's willing to take you on."
Bodie rolled his eyes. "I'm a dead man," he muttered.
And by the end of the practice session Bodie's muscles ached with the effort, and with the blows he took from Hara's shinai. "I'll be good, I swear. Just don't beat me anymore," he begged, mock contrite.
"You're just lucky it was only a bamboo stick and not a sword," Hara replied, but Bodie could tell that he was pleased.
"Did I do okay?" he asked, fishing shamelessly.
"You did okay. You're tougher than I thought you'd be."
"Tell me something?" Bodie asked as they walked back to the house after practice.
"Why do you do kendo? Why not shooting and, well, more practical things for your line of work?"
Hara looked amused. "In time you'll appreciate just how practical it is for someone in my business." He seemed about to say more when two youngsters blocked their path. The elder of the two, a pretty little girl in a school uniform, was carrying a wicker basket. She said something to Hara in Japanese, too rapid for Bodie to follow. The younger child, a tiny boy in a kimono, was crying silently.
Hara nodded and took the basket from the girl. She and the little boy bowed and disappeared down the street.
"We have just become parents, I think," Hara remarked. He lifted the lid of the basket and two tiny, furry faces peeped out at them. Kittens.
"They gave you these cats?" Bodie fished out the white one. "Just like that?"
"They were told to give them away because they already had too many." Hara picked up the orange-striped one. "I think I'll call him Mister Stripes." Then, as an afterthought, he turned the kitten around and lifted the tail. "Mister Stripes," he confirmed. "You name the white one."
"We're going to keep them?"
"Why do you think I accepted them? I'm not going to eat them. What will you name yours?"
Bodie considered for a few moments. "How about Yuki?"
"I like it. You don't mind, do you? You don't hate cats?"
"Not at all. I didn't expect you to like them though."
Bodie had no real answer to Hara's question.
"Because you think an assassin can have no real attachment to anything?"
"No!" But there was an element of truth to it.
"I love cats... and other things."
Bodie felt somehow ashamed after that. He walked on, a little behind Hara, cradling Yuki, and thinking about the question. Perhaps he had assumed that men like Hara were different; capable of passion but not compassion.
He remained withdrawn throughout breakfast, and finally Hara said to him, "I am not like other people, Drew. But I am human."
"And I'm transparent."
Bodie shrugged and poured himself more tea.
"Talk to me?"
"I guess I did think that liking animals was out of character for an assassin."
"And by extension..."
"By extension I got a little nervous," Bodie confessed. "Joji, why do you do it? Kill people, I mean."
Hara stretched his legs oLit and lay back on his forearms. "Because my father did it, and his father and so on. We're a traditional people," he said with irony. "Because I'm good at it. Because I don't fear death..." He paused and frowned. "It holds no mystery for me," he explained, but Bodie had the feeling that that was not what he had wanted to say. "It pays well."
"So I've noticed." Judging from appearances, it paid very well.
"I'm something of an outcast in any event. You see, not only was my mother half French, she came from a fox family."
"She what? You're pulling my leg again, aren't you?"
Hara laughed ruefully. "You may not believe this, but in this country, there are still people who think some families are descended from foxes. Those families are considered unacceptable. It's one of the reasons why my parents left Japan and settled in London before the war."
"Joji, how old are you?" Bodie asked, anxious to satisfy his curiousity while Hara was in such a talkative mood.
Hara grinned at him. "How old do you think?"
"Younger than I used to imagine."
"Twenty-four. You're surprised."
"I didn't think you were that young," Bodie admitted, frankly surprised. "How long..."
"Since I was sixteen. That was the first time I killed a man, at least." He looked troubled. "No more questions, Drew, all right?" He sipped his tea.
Yoshi entered the room to clear away the dishes. Mister Stripes followed him, leaping at his leg where Yuki hung from his trousers, howling piteously. "Very nice cats," he said and exchanged an ironic look with Hara.
Hara pulled Yuki off Yoshi's leg. "We'll take care of them, Yoshi-san. Forgive the intrusion."
"I am not minding their feeding, Hara-san, but they are into everything in kitchen." He left the room quickly, shutting the shoji screen before Mister Stripes could follow.
Hara began to laugh, his face pressed against Yuki's white fur. "Poor Yoshi."
Bodie scooped up Mister Stripes and set him on his stomach. Stripes began to sniff him all over. "How long have you known Yoshi?"
"Since I was born. Now let's talk about something else." He lifted Yuki's tail. "For instance, your Yuki is a little girl."
Late that afternoon they were sitting in the garden when a message arrived for Hara. Bodie watched as he opened it, saw Hara's expression grow cold.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
"Another job. What is the phrase? It never rains but it pours."
"I have to speak to the man, at least." He folded the letter and tucked it into his yukata. "Drew, you have to try to understand..."
"It's not that," Bodie confessed. "It's just, well, you're so remote before a job. And you're gone so long."
"If I decided to accept, I assure you I'll try to take your needs into account."
"You think I'm just talking about sex, don't you?" Bodie was both amused and annoyed.
"No. Well, not entirely."
Hara started to laigh.
"You're always laughing at me," Bodie complained.
"Not at, though I have to confess, I've laughed more since you came to stay, than I have, perhaps, the rest of my life."
"That's good, isn't it?"
Bodie stretched out his leg and turned over a fallen leaf with his foot. A tiny green shoot had pushed through the dirt under the leaf. "You going to take the job?" he asked.
"Perhaps. If I retired, the money would run out eventually and we'd have to beg in the streets."
"Wouldn't mind begging with you, you know."
"You're a romantic," Hara accused.
"It's spring; everyone should be romantic in the spring." He stood up and stretched. "Nice the way nobody can see into the garden from outside."
"I prefer it that way."
"You know Yoshi's gone to the market." Bodie started down the path that led to the back of the garden. "So nobody's in the house." He looked over his shoulder and smiled invitingly.
He walked to the end of the path, stripped off his yukata and sat down under a blossoming cherry tree to wait for Hara. I'm going to feel like an idiot if he doesn't come, he thought. But a few moments later, Hara was standing on the path in front of him. Bodie held out a hand and drew Hara down into an embrace. He wrapped himself around Hara, his hunger desperate and tinged with a fear of losing his lover. He wanted to make it impossible for Hara to leave him. They made love on the cool, damp earth, bathed in the scent of cherry blossoms.
Later, while soaking in the bathtub, Hara said, "you're different from anyone I've ever known."
"I just don't know any better, is all," Bodie replied. His emotions were still a little rocky and he didn't particularly feel like talking.
"You want me to talk about the job, don't you?"
Bodie ducked under the water for a moment. He bobbed back up and shook himself. "I was wondering where you'd be going, really. I didn't want you to tell me who you're... you know."
"I don't even know that yet. However, if you'd like, you may come with me to the meeting. I'll be going to a teahouse in Odawara... not the one where I met you," he added quickly. "A more reputable one. But if you come along, I expect you to behave with decorum."
"No white makeup and silk kimono, huh?" His sense of humour was reasserting itself and he began to feel better.
"And you're to act as though you don't understand a word of Japanese. Can you do it?"
"I don't understand Japanese," Bodie replied. "At least not when you speak it at normal speed."
"You understand more than you should. Do you want to come along?"
"I don't have anything to wear but my yukata. When's your meeting?"
"Tomorrow evening." Hara sighed and shook his head. "You're smaller than I am. You can't wear any of my things," he observed; "though I don't expect that to last much longer. I suppose I'll have to take you shopping in Odawara during the day."
"We could go tonight," Bodie suggested eagerly. "Make a holiday out of it, check into one of the love hotels and fuck the mattress flat.
Hara tried to duck him, but Bodie eluded his hands, grabbed Hara's ankles and pulled him down underwater. Hara came up spluttering and Bodie grinned at him. "Just wait 'til I'm bigger than you are," he promised.
They did leave for Odawara that evening, but Hara checked them into a proper Westernstyle hotel. "It's not so sybaritic," he explained, "but it's a bit more comfortable."
Over breakfast in bed, the following morning, Bodie asked again about the job. "Don't you know anything about it yet?"
"Where the target lives. From that, and from what I know about the man who contacted me, I can draw my own conclusions as to his identity."
"And if you're right?"
Hara buttered a croissant. "You're asking me if I'm going to accept based on what I've guessed. You're a little premature."
"All right, don't tell me. Can we order some more bacon and eggs?"
"You miss good English food, don't you?" He reached over and dialed room service, and ordered more of everything. "You should have said something. Yoshi would be happy to cook whatever you wanted."
"I'm used to it. I really do like the food here, Joji, but sometimes I think I'd kill for a banger or a slice of treacle cake... swiss roll!" He fell back against his pillows in a mock swoon.
"How have you survived?" Hara teased.
"I eat a lot of eisu-kuremu."
Hara took him shopping and bought him a black linen suit and some shirts. "I'll buy you a silk one when you've stopped growing," he promised. They returned to the hotel for the mid-day meal, and Bodie made the most of the opportunity. He ate enough for two, and managed to talk Hara into buying him two extra pastries to take to their room. He ate them while Hara dressed.
"How do I look?"
Bodie studied him. "Wonderful. I like you better in a yukata, though."
"Where I come from, everyone wears a suit. Well, businessmen. How do I look?" He stood up and did a slow turn to show off his new clothes.
"That all?" Bodie was disappointed. It was his first suit.
"No, but you always look beautiful to me. You have some chocolate on your lip. Wait!"
Bodie paused in mid-lick. Hara moved close and flicked his tongue over Bodie's lip. "There. You taste good as well. You remember what I told you? You don't understand Japanese, you don't know what we're talking about. Pay attention to the geisha tonight. I'll ask for one who speaks English."
"I can't listen, but the geisha can?"
"Geisha have heard many secrets over the centuries, but discretion is part of their training. Promise you'll be good?"
"I promise. Will you tell me all about it afterwards?"
"If you want."
The man they met was small, round and middle-aged. He looked rather drab; not at all the sort of person who would be arranging a murder. Hara introduced him to Bodie as Yonoi-san, and Yonoi greeted Bodie in broken English. The geisha brought a bottle of scotch and some glasses and there were a few toasts in Japanese which Hara duti-fully translated for Bodie. Once or twice Yonoi seemed to forget that Bodie wasn't supposed to be able to speak Japanese, and directed a question towards him. Bodie'd been expecting something of the sort, and he managed to smile inanely and convey his ignorance without Hara's help.
After the meal, Hara and Yonoi got down to business. Only one geisha remained in the room and she spent her time refilling glasses and entertaining Bodie. The two men treated her as though she didn't exist, and Bodie watched with fascination as she moved around the room, doing what needed to be done without ever intruding on the conference. Once he heard Yonoi warn Hara that he, Bodie, was paying too much attention to the pretty, young woman. He suggested that Bodie might find he preferred her charms to Hara's. The geisha gave no overt indication that she'd heard, but from the look in her eyes, Bodie could tell that the comment had registered. She sat down opposite him and taught him a child's finger game which distracted him from the rest of the conversation.
Finally, Yonoi left the teahouse and Bodie relaxed. "That was rough," he observed after the geisha left the room. "I think she knew I understood more than I was supposed to."
"Of course she did. She's a clever woman."
"Have you made up your mind?"
"Let's go back to the hotel."
Bodie waited until they were back in their suite, and in bed before he raised the subject again. "Have you made a decision?"
"Yes. I'm going to do it."
"Oh." He wasn't sure how he felt about it, now he knew. "How long will you be gone, do you think?"
"Three weeks. It's not far. That's all I want to tell you, Drew."
"Will you just try to explain how you made your decision?" Bodie asked. "It's a little like playing God, isn't it? I mean, deciding if someone is going to live or die."
"That decision was made without my help. But if you want to know, I make my choice purely on the grounds of acceptable risk. I try never to rationalize my work; I never say, for instance, that this man deserves to die because he's done some terrible thing."
This was something of a revelation to Bodie who had thought that the only possible excuse for Hara's profession was the elimination of undesirables. He had, he realized, begun to see Hara as something of an avenging angel, distributing justice where society had remained important to do so. The truth froze him.
"Drew?" Hara touched his shoulder, and it was a question, a request.
"Would you mind," Bodie began, choosing his words carefully, "if we didn't make love tonight? I'm awfully tired."
"Whatever you want." There was disappointment in Hara's voice, and resignation. Bodie steeled himself against it.
He lay awake for a long time, listening to Hara's deep, even breathing, and thinking about death.
Before he left, Hara made arrangements at the dojo for Bodie continue the kendo lessons while he was gone. But Bodie had little heart for the exercises and the Sensei knew it. One day he sent Bodie home and told him not to return until he'd decided to learn something.
Until Hara returned, Bodie went back to his old habits of sleeping in and spending the days reading or attending the puppet theatre. Hara was gone for a month.
"You look lazy to me, " Hara observed on the evening he returned. "What have you been doing while I was gone?"
"Have you been to the dojo every day?"
"Not every day."
Bodie hesitated. "Not exactly."
There was no point in lying. "Not recently."
"I see." Hara unpacked his bag and said nothing further until the job was completed. "Do you want to go back?"
"Well, yeh, now you're 'ome, I reckon," he said without much enthusiasm.
"Then why not while I was gone? If your desire to learn depends on me, you might as well not bother since you'll forget everything once we're no longer together."
Fear knotted Bodie's stomach. "You plannin' on tossin' me out?" he asked with forced nonchalance.
For a moment Hara looked startled, then he cradled Bodie's face between his hands. "I might not always be here, Drew. That's all I meant. I couldn't ever tell you to go."
And suddenly the thought of life without this man loomed up, unbidden and terrifying. Bodie was ashamed at his tears, but couldn't stop them. They leaked through tightly shut lids and rolled down his cheeks onto Hara's hands. Nothing but death, he realized, not even Hara's profession would come between them. Nothing must be allowed to come between them.
Hara sat down beside him and held him. "We are not immortal, but I suppose love must make us seem so."
"I'm sorry," Bodie whispered, voice heavy with grief.
"You've never done that. If you don't want to learn, there's no reason why you should have to. I shouldn't have insisted in the first place.
"I do want to. I was lazy. That's what the Sensei said, anyway."
Hara rubbed his cheek against Bodie's hair and chuckled. "So was I at one time. Infuriated my father."
"What'd he do?"
"Beat it out of me. Don't worry, I don't anticipate anything so drastic with you. I have an idea." He took hold of Bodie's shoulders and held him at arms' length. "Shall we teach you to be an assassin?"
"You want me to kill people?" Bodie was horrified.
"No, just to learn how to. It will teach you how to stay alive, too. Perhaps if we make it more serious, you'll have greater reason to work at it? And perhaps you'll come to understand me a little better. That's part of the problem, isn't it?"
Bodie nodded. "What will you teach me?"
"Well.... I can teach you how to kill with your hands, how to use a katana instead of a shinai -- with and without armour," he added, smiling fiendishly. "And I'll teach you how to handle a knife and a gun and some tricks of the trade." He grew serious, suddenly. "But, Drew, this is important. What I'm going to teach you is not a game. You have to promise me that you'll never use any of this lightly. What I teach you will
ake you a dangerous man. There is an ethic to this profession which you have to discover for yourself. It's very hard work," he warned. "And once begun, you are committed. There can be no half-way about this teaching. You do or you do not, but I cannot tolerate anything in between. Yes?"
Bodie took a deep breath and weighed the alternatives. "Yes," he said. "I agree. I'll do it."
Strangely, he felt easier in his mind after that. He had made a commitment, had accepted responsibility. He felt, finally, as though he was really becoming an adult.
"Seiza," Hara ordered, and Bodie nodded. He dropped to one knee, the first movement involved in the seiza, or sitting bow. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hara move, but before his mind could register the implication of what he'd seen, Hara's bokken smashed into his shoulder sending him sprawling.
"What was that for?" Bodie yelled.
"I was trying to. I was doing it the way you taught me!" He stood up, rubbing his arm. "That hurt!"
"Okay, okay." This time as he dropped to his knee, he was more aware of Hara standing just inside the periphery of his vision. He dropped to his knee, Hara moved and Bodie swerved to the left, falling on his ass, but avoiding the bokken as it swung past him. "Feelin' mean this morning, aren't we?" He got to his feet.
"You work with your body, not your mouth," Hara snapped. "Do it again."
This time when Hara swung, Bodie tried to fend off the blow with his arm, and got a lovely bruise to show for it.
"If this had been a katana instead of a stick of wood..."
"A tree trunk," Bodie muttered, inspecting the bruise.
"You would have lost that arm. Do it again."
This time, Bodie managed to avoid the blow and stay upright. He lowered himself onto both knees, saw Hara swing at him from the other direction, swerved and fell on his face. "Bloody 'ell. Do it again, huh?"
A ghost of a smile crossed Hara's face.
He did it again and again, until finally, he was able to kneel without being struck. He began to bow and the bokken swung up under his chin. Bodie ducked before it smashed into his jaw. He began again.
Finally, he managed to complete the movements. The bow was inelegant, he ached all over, but the bow itself was a little triumph.
"Now I'm going to show you how to avoid being killed without throwing yourself all over the mats. Do it again."
They practiced the bow all day, all the next day. They practiced until Bodie's avoidance of the bokken was instinctive; and though he was not yet graceful, he was learning how to control his body.
After each session, they went back home and soaked in the big pine furo for an hour. "Did you get bashed about like this when you were learning?" Bodie asked one day.
"Oh, yes. My father was a good teacher." He smiled reminiscently. "Drew, it's going to become harder with each step you take. There'll be days when you hate me, days when I really hurt you. There will be times when you won't be able to sleep or even use the benjo in peace because your enemies won't respect either function. You'll even learn to eat so that your enemies can't kill you with your chopsticks."
"You're going to jump me in the bog?" Bodie was stunned.
"Perhaps. Think about it. Think about how vulnerable you are there; or in here."
"If I'm vulnerable, so are you," Bodie countered.
"I have a gun and a knife in here."
"In the bath? What about at night?"
"I never noticed," Bodie admitted, feeling foolish.
"You weren't meant to. And I have Yoshi. Oh, yes, there's more to Yoshi than meets the eye."
Bodie lay back against the side of the furo and considered Hara's words. "It's like being under siege, innit?" he asked.
"Very. Always alert, always conscious of what goes on around you. It's called zanshin. It's part of life now, Drew."
The whole household united to teach him zanshin. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, a lack of awareness was rewarded with a sharp whack from Hara or Yoshi. The cats began to ambush him as he walked through the house. Sometimes he saw the humour in the situation, but frequently he would hide in the garden and pour out his frustration and anger in tears. The lessons seemed endless; endless avoidance of Hara's punishing blows, endless practice with his own bokken--hours spent swinging it against a target or in practice with Hara or the Sensei. Endless concentration. Months and months of vigilence and punishment.
But he learned. Slowly the awareness of his surroundings became second nature. He learned that he could relax physically without relaxing his guard. He learned that he could concentrate on other things without losing his zanshin. He became stronger, more agile. He absorbed the elements of kenjutsu, the footwork, the timing, the rhythms. He spent hours practicing the kata that made him think of ballet.
One day Hara said to him, "you've learned the forms, now it's time to teach you the essence." Now Hara taught Bodie what he called settsuku, which he said meant the connection between all parts of the body; and mushin, which he said was physical response without unnecessary interference from the mind. Bodie learned that both the delivery of a blow and the avoidance of one was a function of his whole body, and only a small part of his mind. Hara taught him to use his body instinctively. Bodie began to spend hours in meditation on the lessons he had learned and on the path he'd chosen. But while he began to discover his own inner silence, he could not discover the ethic Hara had spoken of. He did not understand that final step.
He tonsured the highwayman,
And made him his disciple
On a journey in autumn.
Mishima, January 1965
Hara had just returned from a business trip. He studied Bodie as he emptied his case. "I can't believe how you've grown in the few weeks I've been gone."
"Had to get a new jacket and hakama last week," Bodie informed him. "The Sensei said I looked too foolish to fight -- my opponent would die laughing." He lay down on the floor and watched Hara unpack. "What's that?" he asked, nodding at a long wooden crate.
"It's for you. A belated birthday gift -- you've not mentioned your birthday since we've been together, so I assume I've missed at least one. This should make up for it."
"It's in May and you've never mentioned yours either. May I open it now?"
Bodie attacked the crate while Hara sat down and began to clean his gun. Inside the crate was a bundle of silk. He pulled it out and began to unwrap it. Inside the silk was a sword. "You bought me a katana!"
"Be careful pulling it out of the scabbard; you could lose a finger handling it in the wrong way."
Bodie, who had never done more than look at Hara's sword, was awkward with the weapon at first. He handled it gingerly, drawing it out of the scabbard with extreme care.
"It's about three hundred years old," Hara told him. "The tempering of the steel in the blade is very beautiful. It's called sambon sugi."
Bodie inspected the blade carefully. "What are these for?" he asked, indicating two grooves running the length of the weapon.
"Blood runnels. They also strengthen the sword."
"And this engraving?"
"It says, 'Brought down four men with ease.' That tells you the quality of the sword."
As he handled it, Bodie was more aware than ever of the precise purpose of a sword like this. For all its beauty, it was meant for taking life. He slipped it back into the scabbard. "It's beautiful. Thank you."
Hara put his work aside. "You know, you always have a choice," he said, quietly. "Knowledge gives you that power."
"I'm still looking for your ethic," Bodie said, half in jest. He avoided Hara's eyes.
"Don't look for mine, Drew. It's not your path." Suddenly he was all business again. "We'll start to work with katana tomorrow morning."
"You'll make a fox of me yet," Bodie joked.
For Bodie, swordwork had a romance that the bokken lacked. There was an elegance to the glint of steel in the winter sunlight, the sound of the sword cutting the air. Hara practiced the various kata with him, their footwork like a dance of death at the point of the gleaming blades. Bodie practiced on straw- stuffed dummies, learning how to slash and stab, and decapitate with a stroke. "If you must kill, kill cleanly," Hara would admonish. "Don't make a mess of your opponent."
By the time Bodie turned seventeen he was a good swordsman. He was a head taller than Hara, more heavily built, and had a longer reach. On his birthday, which they celebrated together in the same hotel in Odawara, he asked Hara about the rest of the training. "You said you'd teach me a lot of different things, Joji," he reminded his lover. They were eating supper in their suite.
"Now you've learned the discipline, everything else will be easier. What do you want to learn first?"
"Shooting. I want to learn how to handle a gun. And fighting, you know, karate, aikido."
Hara smiled benevolently. "You enjoy punishment, don't you?"
"I'm tougher than I used to be and even then I could take it. I told you you'd make a fox of me."
"No, not a fox. A wolf." Before Bodie could respond to that rather surprising pronouncement, Hara said, "shooting is mostly just practice once you learn how to use the gun. The rest, well, you'll have to start from the beginning again." He sat back and drained his wineglass. "You've worked so hard, Drew. Do you think it was worth it?"
Bodie considered the question for a few moments. "I guess I do," he admitted. "It's changed me for the better."
Hara folded his napkin and set it beside his plate. "How so?"
"I feel better about us. I know we're together because we both want to be," he replied.
It was Hara's turn to consider. "I think I understand what you mean. But did you ever think we were together out of anything but affection?"
"To begin with, yes. You didn't do much to change that idea, either, as I recall." He began picking uneaten food off of Hara's plate. "You didn't want the rest of the potato, did you?"
"I'm sorry about that time."
Bodie shrugged and went on eating. "Can we order some more oysters and champagne?"
"Later, perhaps. Would you like to take a walk? It's a beautiful night." He reached out and captured Bodie's hand in the act of removing the last bits of beef from his plate. He took the fork away and kissed the palm of Bodie's hand. The he ate the last bite of steak. "Walk?" he repeated.
"Can we have some ice cream?"
I have discovered that the Way of the Samurai is death.
Mishima, February 1966
Bodie was half awake, dreaming of the place where he was born. Ireland. Green place. So different from Liverpool, different from Mishima too, though somehow, in his dream, they kept getting mixed up.
The insistent pressure of his bladder brought him up out of the half dream. It was cold in the house, but he was warm under the covers where he and Hara had retreated after spending the morning at the dojo. He could tell by the light that it was late afternoon. Hara was sitting at his desk, reading.
"Christ, it's cold," Bodie observed as he crawled out from under a pile of fern green and deep violet coverlets.
"It's snowing," Hara told him without looking up from his book. "Yoshi's out. If you want food you'll have to fix it yourself."
Afterwards, he went to his room to fetch some clothes, and while he was there, he heard a commotion outside. Local children? he wondered, but something nagged at him; his instinct, now honed like the edge of his sword, told him that something was not quite right about the noise. He stepped out into the hall just in time to see the front door burst open. Two men ran in and one of them pointed a gun at him. "Never mind the boy," the other one said as he began smashing the screens with the scabbard of his sword. "We'll take care of him later." They were looking for Hara.
Bodie ducked back into his bedroom and grabbed his katana. He heard shouting from outside Hara's room. There was a shot and without thought he burst through the fragile screen between his room and Hara's, unsheathed his katana and swung. What he felt was vastly different from the feel of slicing through straw-filled dummies. The shock of the parting of flesh and bone, he realized, would be with him always.
There were two shots at almost the same moment, and for a few seconds, Bodie wasn't sure what had happened.
"Drew?" Hara took the sword from him. "Are you all right?"
Bodie looked around the room. There was blood everywhere. Two bodies, one headless, lay crumpled on the stained tatami. Blood had splattered the futon, garish against the violet, brown where it stained the green. Something round lay in one corner. "It's a pretty good sword," Bodie observed. Then he threw up.
He woke up in the bed in his room. Yuki and Mister Stripes were both with him, Yuki on the other pillow and Stripes between his knees. Hara was sitting beside the bed watching him.
"How d'you feel?" Hara asked, and Bodie remembered everything.
"I don't know. I don't feel anything...only, I can remember how it felt when I..." His fingers tingled with the remembered sensation and he shuddered. "God, I killed him, didn't I? Did the police come?"
Hara handed him a mug of tea. "Don't worry about the police."
"Who were they?" The hot liquid was bitter but comforting; something familiar to cling to.
"Yakuza--covered with tattoos. They were hired to do it."
"Because someone thought I knew too much about his business."
Bodie shifted and Stripes glared at him. "Hara, you have to tell the police. They'll do it again, otherwise!"
"No. It won't happen again," he promised. Bodie knew what he meant--more death. "Why don't you try to get some more sleep?"
He lay down again and shut his eyes. Inside his head, everything was red and wet. The muscles of his arms tingled. His fingers remembered the stroke.
When he woke again, it was morning and he felt considerably better. Yuki was purring in his ear. H eased himself out from under Stripes and stumbled out to the kitchen.
"Morniu, Bodie. You want tea? Some brrrekfasu?"
"Where's Hara?" He sat down heavily, feeling a little groggy still, and wondering if Yoshi knew what had happened. But then, nothing happened anywhere in Mishima that Yoshi didn't know.
"Hara have businesu this morning. He back tonight. He tell me you must resting today. You have been sick."
Bodie began to laugh. He laughed until he began to cry, and Yoshi sat beside him, stroking his hair.
"First time bery hard," he said, consolingly.
"Like sex," Bodie gurgled, choking on his tears. For a moment he wondered if he was losing his mind.
"Is done. Is no shame."
"I killed a man!"
Yoshi caught his chin and wrenched his head up. "Yes, you taking a life, but you have give one, too. And save your own. Why you bother learn to kill otherwise? You sorry you arlive?"
"Good." He released his hold on Bodie and went back to his work. "You want brrekfasu?"
It was, he realized, just a little like falling down the rabbit hole. "Sure, why not?"
By the time Hara returned, Bodie was more collected. He spent several hours exercising furiously and another in meditation. He thought about all that had happened, and while he drew no conclusions on the rightness or wrongness of what he'd done, he found he felt easier in his mind afterwards. He'd traded one life, the life of a stranger and a killer, for Hara's life, and his own. They would have killed him, too. They'd come to kill.
He was in the bath when Hara returned. There was a movement at the door and Bodie tensed, reaching around to where he now knew Hara's gun was hidden.
"It's only me, Drew."
"I don't think I'll ever be able to relax again," he complained.
Hara entered and began washing himself, and as Bodie watched him, he felt desire rising in him like the coalescing of a vague hunger which had plagued him all day.
"You feeling better tonight?"
"Much, thank you."
Hara rinsed himself and stepped into the furo, sinking into the hot water with a sigh of pleasure. "I longed for this."
"Yoshi says the first time is the hardest. I've heard that before," he said ironically. "Will you tell me about yours?"
Hara gave him a dark look. "Is that strictly necessary?"
"I think so. I want to feel less alone." Though calmer, he felt cold inside.
"I was sixteen and my father took me on one of his jobs. I killed the target's bodyguard. It was neatly done; one little hole right here." He pointed to the center of his forehead. "My father was very angry with me for not having tried for a body shot. Bigger target, you know. But I remember thinking that if I had to kill this man, I wanted it to be quick, and that meant a good, clean head shot." His velvety, dark eyes were unfocussed and far away. "I was sick afterwards, too, if that's any consolation."
"A great deal," Bodie admitted. "Did you find the man who had hired them?"
"Is he dead?"
"He will be soon," Hara promised.
Bodie lay back and closed his eyes. "The hardest part of this life must be wondering when your luck will run out."
Hara said nothing, but when Bodie opened his eyes again, his lover was staring at him, his eyes alive with pain. "I'm sorry I pulled you into this life, Drew. I should never have spoken to you. I wish I'd never seen you." He climbed out of the tub and dried himself, and left the room without another word.
Bodie dried himself, dressed and walked slowly down the ravaged hallway. The cats ambushed each other through the wrecked screens. He stopped at the door to Hara's room. "Tell me you didn't mean it."
Hara refused to look at him. "I was wrong," he said quietly. "What I did to you was more wrong than all the killings put together."
Bodie sank to his knees beside Hara and wrapped his arms around. "I'm bigger than you are now. You said I would be someday."
"I want you to leave here."
"No fear of that, mate. I'm here for the duration."
"So am I," Bodie insisted. "I'm not leaving here, I'm not leaving you. This is my home, Joji, you're my home, and I killed to defend that last night. I'm sorry it had to happen, but I'd do it again. How could you ask me to leave?"
"How could you want to stay?" Hara's voice was bleak, and he was trembling slightly. This was, Bodie realized, a moment of truth for both of them, and it was up to him to carry them through.
"I'm a bit thick," Bodie explained, hugging Hara very tight. His lover seemed very small, suddenly. "Now you get your self-pity out of the way like I did this afternoon and we'll be all right again, heh?"
Hara was silent for several minutes; then his sense of humour resurfaced. "I guess I'll have to keep you." He began to laugh.
"Mmmm." Bodie kissed his ear, then his throat. "You smell wonderful, Joji-san." His hand crept inside the silken layers of Hara's kimono to stroke bare flesh. "Why don't we go into my room?"
He pulled Hara into his bedroom and onto his bed, undressing him as he went. "I think we should make a change tonight," he said. "I think it's time you let me call the shots." He held Hara's head still and kissed him very hard, his tongue probing relentlessly. When he broke off they were both breathless. "I want to have you, I want to fuck you tonight, Joji. Don't say no."
Hara pushed the yukata off Bodie's shoulders and began to kiss his bare chest. "Anything, anything," he panted, as aroused as Bodie was. Bodie had a sense of someething momentous -- they were about to meet as equals. They would never be the same again.
Bodie held Hara down while he explored the well-known, well-loved contours of his body. His hands stroked down Hara's smooth back to clutch small, tight buttocks. He probed with his finger. "Mizu-age?" he whispered recalling their first night together.
Hara gasped and surged upwards as Bodie's finger touched the prostate. Bodie's mouth covered Hara's cock, and he could feel it swell and harden against his tongue. The power he held elated him. He played on it, sucking, rubbing, teasing and withdrawing, dragging Hara to the edge and holding him there.
Bodie lubricated himself and knelt between Hara's splayed thighs--smooth, golden skin dusted with downy black hair. He touched the inside of one thigh and it quivered under his fingers. He bent Hara's knees back against his chest and tongued the entrance to his body. Hara moaned softly. Then Bodie entered his lover, stunned at the exquisite sensation of being sheathed by tight muscle. Hara groaned and Bodie knew just what he was feeling. Lured by the sounds, Yuki and Stripes jumped up on the bed and watched.
It was too much, too intense. When Hara arched up off the mattress and climaxed with a yell that sent the curious cats running, Bodie slipped over the edge as well, unable to stop the waves of pleasure that drained him. He sank down on top of the smaller man with a great, shuddering sigh. He felt Hara's fingers combing his hair.
"All these curls," Hara whispered.
They kissed, gentler now.
"Did I ever tell you that you're beautiful?" Bodie asked.
"You are." He saw Hara blush. "When I first saw you I thought you looked like a porcelain mask. I could no more have walked away from you then than I could now." He left Hara's body and rolled onto the mattress. "Tell me something -- is it always like this after a kill?"
Hara propped himself up on one elbow. "This hunger? Yes."
"I suppose it's one of the perks." He grew serious. "We can't ever go back, Joji. I can't wake up tomorrow and not have taken a life. And we can't pretend that this," he made a gesture indicating the bed and what they'd just done in it. "That this never happened. I'm not your boy any more."
"You're not any sort of boy," Hara countered. "But you are mine."
"And you're mine?"
"Heart and soul...if that doesn't sound too sentimental," he teased.
Stripes hopped up on the bed, stepped delicately onto Hara's hip and began to clean himself. Yuki sat on the floor, still not sure that Bodie and Hara hadn't been trying to kill each other.
Should I perish
On this snowy moor, I also
Shall become a snow-Buddah.
Milan/Paris, May 1968
Bodie stretched his legs and lay back in the chair, soaking up the late afternoon rays of the sun. The air here smelled sweet, different. "What a beautiful day, eh, Joji?"
"And my birthday is coming up."
"Was that a hint?" Hara adjusted his sunglasses. "What would you like for your birthday?"
"I'd love to see Paris. I mean, as long as we're here..."
"Very well, Paris it is." He straightened up and looked around.
Bodie stiffened slightly, realizing that Joji had scented his prey and was tensing for the kill.
"I'll be right back."
Bodie watched him walk towards the lavatories, about ten paces behind his target, a small, elegant figure in a dark suit. Nothing about him suggested what was about to happen. Part of Hara's success came from his appearance. People expected assassins to be sinister or wild-eyed and Hara was neither.
Bodie called the waiter over and asked for the checque.
How much things had changed, he reflected as he paid the waiter, and told him, in his small Italian, to keep the change. He was a world traveller now, a sophisticate. Hara had taken a callow boy and had changed him into a man of the world who wore silk suits and Italian leather shoes.
But it was inside that the changes were most drastic. The way he thought, the way he experienced emotion--all different. Hara sometimes joked that Bodie was more Japanese than he was, and in some ways it was too close to truth to be funny. He had learned the lessons of control and reserve too well. With Hara, with Yoshi most of the time, he was the same as he ever was; open, affectionate. But with the world in general he had learned the value of keeping himself a little apart. What he felt he kept to himself. Hara had told him once that it was no shame to show anger or pain, but Bodie could never make him understand that it was not out of shame that he forced his emotions into tidy little rooms with carefully locked doors. It was out of fear. Fear of what those emotions would do to him.
Better to be a little apart, than be torn apart, he thought, remembering the feel of his katana severing a human head. In that moment, he had been glad of his sword; it had been part of him. He had wanted to kill again. It was something he'd not allowed himself to understand until much later, that pleasure he'd taken in the annihilation of the enemy...that rage. He had not killed again. He hoped never to have to do so because he was afraid of the terrible joy of the sword in his hand.
He had told this last to Hara once, not too long ago. Hara had been thoughtful. "You're not saying you like to kill."
"I hate it."
"But when you must you're glad you have the ability?"
Bodie had nodded. "Essentially, yes. And I don't really regret it. I thought I did... I thought I should, but it wasn't real. No remorse, Joji."
He'd understood. Hara always understood.
While Bodie was thinking about his life, Hara returned to the table.
"I paid the checque," Bodie told him. "Why don't we go see the cathedral?"
"What a good idea."
They walked along, shoulder to shoulder, through the city. "Any problems?"
Hara shook his head. "It went very well. We can leave tonight if you want."
"Just as soon as we see the cathedral." Bodie was growing used to accompanying Hara on his jobs. He no longer lay awake at night sick with fear that something might go wrong; that Hara would be caught or killed. It was easier to think of the trips as working vacations. Still, he was always happier to have the job done and to be away from the place in which it happened.
They took the night train to Paris. Hara, who slept well anywhere was curled up in a ball, snoring softly. Bodie slept well only after they crossed the border. And in between short naps, he thought about how things had changed in the last year or so. One could get used to anything, particularly out of love. He no longer brooded over Hara's profession. People were what they were; you accepted them or not as you chose. But there was no use worrying about it once that choice was made. He shut his eyes and listened to the clack of the wheels on the tracks.
Paris was more beautiful than he'd expected. They visited cathedrals and museums, walked tree-lined streets and flower gardens heavy with scent and colour and the drone of bees. They spent a lot of money in expensive shops and watched the world go by in cafes.
Then one day, in his Garden of Eden, Bodie found the apple. She was sitting on a park bench, her glossy, dark-brown hair floating free in the light breeze. He walked past the bench very casually, but she noticed him and smiled, and Bodie was unable to keep from smiling in return. She was so beautiful.
He did a circuit of the park and returned to the book- seller's stall where Hara was sifting through the mountains of old volumes in search of something he didn't already have. He wrapped his arms around Hara's waist, confident that the broad-minded French wouldn't object to honest affection. "You going to be done soon?"
"One more turn around the park should do it." Hara held up a book. "Look at this; a first edition of Les Enfants Terribles! Marvelous."
"You'll have to read it to me someday. I'll be back in a quarter of an hour."
He walked back through the park, wondering if the woman would still be there when he passed her bench. Something in him hoped she would be.
But the bench was occupied by an old man with a squashed- looking straw hat when he passed by a second time. Disappointment washed over him. He'd wanted to see her again. As he walked on, he thought about the woman and wondered why it mattered so much. He strolled back through the park to the book stall.
"What's on for tonight?" he asked as they walked back to their hotel.
"Whatever you want. Only no more little cafes in Monmartre, please?"
"I thought the artistic ambience would appeal to you, mon ami," Bodie replied dryly. "Ah. la vie Boheme! C'est si belle, c'est...that's the limit of my French."
The desk clerk gave Hara a note. "Who knows I'm here?" Hara mused as he inspected the envelope. It had been hand-delivered; the only thing written on it was "Hara Joji" in an elegant, spidery hand. "It can't be," he breathed, and tore open the pale blue envelope as they entered the lift. "My God, Gareth!" A smile spread across his face as he read. "Bodie, we have an invitation to dinner tonight from an old friend." He handed Bodie a silver-edged card covered with the same pale scrawl.
"Gareth? Should I be jealous?"
"You could be, I suppose, but I don't think it's strictly necessary."
"Old friend," it said. "It's been too long since we've been together. Will you dine with me tonight? Naturally the invitation includes the charming young man who is travelling with you. Say yes, Joji. I'll expect you at eight." It was signed "Gareth."
"How does he know about me?"
"I imagine he's been watching us."
"Oh, is he..." He made the classic gun gesture with his right hand--index finger extended, the other fingers curled inward.
Hara let them into the suite. "Yes he is," Hara confirmed. "And quite good at it too. Shall we accept?"
Curious now, Bodie decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea. "Why not? Maybe he'll have some stories about your past that I haven't heard yet."
"I promise you he does."
Gareth kept a townhouse on a stylish street. His man, a tough-looking Irishman, greeted them at the door. "Ah, it's Mister Hara. When Himself told me to expect you tonight, I couldn't believe it."
"Good to see you again, Jimmy. How have you been? What is it, ten years?"
"It's that. I've been keeping well, thanks. And yourself?"
"Sure and I can see that with me own yes, can't I? Who's the lad with the Irish eyes?"
"This is Andrew Bodie. Drew, this is Jimmy, a good friend but a dangerous man to cross."
They shook hands.
"I'll take you to Himself, shall I?" He led them through the large, airy house to a library lit only by a fire in the marble fireplace. "Mister Hara and Mister Bodie are here," Jimmy announced.
A figure unfolded itself from a big leather chair in front of the fireplace. "Joji, it's wonderful to see you again!" Gareth was tall, slender and fair-haired. He hugged Hara unselfconsciously, grinning and pounding him on the back. "It's been too long."
"Since I left England. I've thought of you often. Gareth, I want you to meet Drew." He stepped aside and presented them to each other. "Drew, this is my oldest friend, Gareth Stewart."
Gareth greeted him warmly. "Joji always had excellent taste. Where are you from, Drew?"
"Liverpool...and Japan, now."
"He's becoming Japanese," Hara remarked. "I expect epicanthic folds on his eyes any day now."
"Please sit down, have a drink."
They sat in front of the fireplace and Gareth handed them each a glass of whisky. He was a strange-looking man, Bodie decided; not really handsome, but attractive in a way Bodie couldn't quite categorize. He seemed genuinely happy to see Hara again and was reminiscing with great animation about some schoolboy prank.
"I rather wish we'd been able to see the headmaster's face when he found the sheep in his study," Hara said. "It might have made the caning a little easier to bear."
"He had no sense of humour, did he? Still, he could have sent us down for it."
"I think he was a sadist. If he kept us around he knew we'd probably do something he could beat us for."
"I had no idea you were living in Paris, Gareth."
"It's been about three years now. I was tired of Germany." The door opened and he smiled. "But not of things German. Marrika, come say hello to our guests."
A woman entered the circle and greeted them. It was the woman from the park. She smiled at Bodie and gave him a little wink. "I'm glad to meet you at long last," she said to Hara. "Since Gareth learned that you were in Paris, he's talked of nothing else."
Hara kissed her hand. "Gareth has always had an eye for a work of art."
She turned to Gareth. "You didn't tell me he was part Irish."
"He has a smooth tongue, I'll grant you that."
"Jimmy's asked me to tell you that dinner is ready and he'll be very put out if we let the soup get cold. I paraphrase, of course. Jimmy's English is much more vivid than mine."
Over dinner Hara and Gareth relived old times. Much of what they discussed Bodie found fascinating, but more fascinating still was Marrika. She paid a great deal of attention to him, more than would have been comfortable if he hadn't found her so attractive. And the attraction was a revelation to him. His experience with women was limited to mother and sisters, and had never been remotely sexual. But this woman made him feel strange. It was like what he felt with Hara, but different. He barely understood what he was feeling except that he wanted her. It made him uncomfortable.
Over a dessert of cassis sorbet, Gareth drew them into the conversation. "Marrika's an actress."
"Oh, Gareth, not really. I aspire to the stage," she explained. "My experience is limited."
"She's quite good, actually. I want to take her to London and introduce her to some people who might be able to help her career, but she won't let me."
"When I feel ready." She turned to Bodie. "I hear you're from Liverpool, Andrew."
Bodie nodded. "I haven't seen England in five years, though."
"So you're an innocent abroad," Gareth remarked playfully. Here in the stronger light of the crystal chandelier, Bodie noticed that Gareth's eyes were mismatched; one clear blue, the other smoky green. It accounted for the oddness of his expression, Bodie thought; and he wondered absently if Gareth was as strange on the inside as he was on the outside.
"Not so innocent as all that," Bodie replied.
"Indeed. Joji, I do believe you've been a bad influence on Drew."
"It's the other way around, I think." Hara had a funny expression on his face, and Bodie thought for a moment he'd guessed that Bodie was lusting after Marrika. But then Hara smiled his old, fond smile that meant 'I love you' or 'I'm proud of you' or something equally warm.
After dinner, Marrika asked Bodie if he'd like to see the rest of the flat. "Gareth has a collection of Dada that are the envy of the art world." He was inclined to say no, but Hara urged him on. "Gareth and I are going to sit in front of the fire and reminisce like a pair of old geezers. You go and appreciate the art for both of us." So Bodie went off with her while Gareth and Hara retired to the library.
Bodie didn't particularly like the paintings, but he feigned interest. He tried not to notice Marrika's attentiveness, and the way she stood very close to him while she talked about the artwork. He tried not to notice her perfume or her fingers slipping under his jacket. "Who did this one? I quite like it."
"Duchamp. It's my favourite too." She unbuttoned several of his shirt buttons.
"Don't do that!"
"It's not right."
"By some standards. Gareth won't mind."
"Joji might." He pushed her hand away and rebuttoned his shirt.
"Andrew..." She pushed her hair back from her face. "I'm not asking for more than a few minutes of your time, you know."
"What?" He was taken aback.
"Oh, my dea, sometimes sex is just for fun. You wanted me that day in the park, didn't you?"
He considered a lie, but rejected the thought. "I've been wondering what was the point of that little exercise," he countered acidly.
"How long have you been with Joji?" She moved close and unbuttoned his shirt again.
"Four and a half years."
"Have you ever known a woman?"
"Of course!" But he'd already given himself away. "No," he admitted. "I've never wanted one." Until now.
"Kiss me." Her fingers twined in his hair and she pulled his head down. Bodie was so excited he could hardly breathe.
They lay down on the carpet. Marrika opened her blouse and bra so he could touch her breasts. He loved the softness of her, the perfume of her skin. She unzipped his trousers and pushed them down around his hips. "I knew you wanted me," she whispered, fingering his already erect organ. Then she hiked her skirt up. She was wearing a black garter belt and stockings, nothing else. "The door is locked. No one will bother us in here. Make love to me, Andrew."
He found the entrance to her body and slipped into it easily. It was wet and slick. "Christ!" The word hissed out from between clenched teeth.
"Mmmm, lovely. You're incredibly handsome, did you know that? Is it good, Andrew? Do you like it?"
He wanted to say no, but the lie wouldn't come. "God, yes," he moaned. "You're wonderful." He began to thrust into her, and she hooked her legs around his waist.
"Yes, yessss," she whispered, biting his ear. "You feel so good in me!" Her long, pink-laquered fingernails raked the skin on his back. He could feel her muscles rippling around his cock, stroking him, milking him. She shut her eyes and tensed. "Almost, Andrew. Make me come, oh pleassssss...Oh!" He felt her orgasm. She relaxed with a sigh of utter fulfillment. "Ah, that was wonderful. Are you close?"
She began moving against him, again, rising to meet his thrusts, working her muscles to draw him up to climax.
He felt himself tense for it, and he opened his mouth, but she clamped a hand over it. "Let's not announce it," she whispered. Then she kissed him and his shout was lost in her. He thought he'd never stop coming.
Afterwards, he slipped out of her and rubbed his face against her breasts. "Thank you."
"My pleasure, I assure you."
They lay on the floor for several minutes, then she asked, "have you a handkerchief?"
He found the one in his jacket pocket and handed it to her. She sat up, spread her legs and mopped away the wetness. Bodie was fascinated. "May I?" She handed him the handkerchief and he completed the task. "Mucky business. I didn't expect it to be so...wet," he admitted, and Marrika began to giggle.
The musky female scent of her was dizzying and he desperately wanted to take her again. He kissed her again, his fingers probing the cleft of her body.
She pushed his hand away. "We should go back now," she told him gently.
He cleaned himself off and refastened his clothing. Marrika did the same. She looked so clean and crisp when she's finished, he wouldn't ever have guessed what she'd just done, if he hadn't been part of it. She folded his handkerchief and tucked it into her bra. "If you want this back," she told him, "you can find it at the Hotel Ste. Clair, room 24. Any afternoon."
He followed her back to the library, more subdued than he should have been after such a satisfying encounter. A memory of how he'd felt the night Joji had brought another boy home haunted him; and now he'd done the same. And he wanted to do it again.
Mercifully, Hara suggested they leave not long after. Bodie thanked Gareth and Marrika, unable to meet their eyes. He felt as if he'd done something terribly wrong, and worse, he wanted to do it again.
He showered before going to bed, needing both a ritual cleansing and some time to himself. When he finally went into the bedroom, he found Hara sitting up in bed, reading. "Oh, Drew, you must have lost your handkerchief," he remarked. Bodie was paralyzed, Hara began to laugh. "What a face. I'm just twitting you. I know where it went."
"How do you know?"
"Gareth told me."
"God, I'm so sorry." He felt sick. He couldn't look Hara in the eye.
"Did you enjoy it?"
Hara closed his book. "So you've learned something new. That's nothing to be sorry for. And before you say it, no, I'm not upset or angry."
Bodie was startled. "Why not?"
Hara patted the bed. "Come and sit down," he asked, and Bodie sat beside him on the crisp white sheet. "For one thing, I love you very much, and I want you to have everything you want. But what I think is more important is you knowing all your possibilities. Now you know you enjoy women, too. Think of it as a part of your education."
Bodie relaxed. "And you're not afraid I'll like them better than men...than you?" he asked.
"Not at all. Remember, I know you too well."
Bodie rolled onto his side and propped his head up on his hand. "And do you know your possibilities?"
"Quite well, thank you."
"You're just a little bundle of surprises tonight, aren't you? I didn't know you liked women...like that."
A smile curved Hara's lips and Bodie wanted to kiss him. "There's a lot you still don't know about me, Drew."
"Well, I have a lot of years left in which to find out all your secrets." He grabbed Hara and pulled him over on top of himself, pressing his mouth hard against Hara's. "I know your body pretty well don't I? I know what you like..." He stiffened. "How did Gareth know?"
Hara untied the belt to Bodie's white bathrobe. "You're not the first one."
Utterly disillusioned, Bodie pushed him away and rolled onto his back.
"Drew, you didn't think... Oh, love, I didn't mean to hurt you." Hara tried to stroke his cheek, but Bodie pushed his hand away. "Did she mean that much to you?" Hara whispered, and for the first time, Bodie heard uncertainty in his voice.
Angry with himself, Marrika and Gareth, he took it out on the one person he could hurt. "Yes, she did. I was going to see her again tomorrow. Did Gareth tell you about that too?" he snapped. "Does he know about her room at the Hotel Ste. Clair?"
Hara sat up and ran his fingers through his short black hair. "He knows about the room. He pays for it."
"You people are incredible!" Bodie yelled, affronted. "You're so damn casual about sex, aren't you?"
"Gareth tolerates it because he isn't able to provide her with a sexual outlet. I'm sorry if you're offended." He got up off the bed. "I think I'll take a shower now you're done."
Bodie lay alone on the bed listening to the water run. His innate sense of fairness made him ashamed for the way he'd struck out at Hara. Worse, the hurt was still with him. He'd wanted to be special for her and instead he had become just another conquest, a toy, a casual lay. It had felt so special to him; why hadn't she felt it as well?
Then he thought of Hara. The things he put up with. Bodie swallowed his hurt and disappointment and determined to make it up to his lover. He got up and went into the bath.
He could see the outline of Hara's body in a corner of the shower, and even through the frosted glass he could read dejection in the slump of the shoulders. He knocked on the door of the stall. "I've decided I need to wash again," he explained, stepping into the shower. "Hope you don't mind sharing." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean all those things."
"No. I was stupid. Why d'you put up with me? Is it because I make you laugh...sometimes?"
"No." Some of the man's reserve seemed to melt. "It's because you need someone to take care of you. I'm a sucker for a stray." He pulled Bodie close and kissed him until Bodie was weak-kneed. "You go to the Hotel Ste. Clair tomorrow. I know you won't stay away long."
Bodie went down on his knees. He took Hara into his mouth.
Bodie didn't go to her the next day, or the day after, but on Friday Hara announced that he and Gareth were planning on spending the next afternoon together. "Marrika won't be there. I'm sure you can find something to do with yourself as well."
"You want me to go, don't you?" Bodie accused. He would rather have avoided the issue entirely.
"You won't rest until you do. Besides, you have to get your handkerchief back."
So Bodie found himself at the Ste. Clair, outside number 24, mouth dry and stomach knotted with anticipation. He knocked at the door and it opened to reveal Marrika in a white satin robe trimmed with lace. "Andrew. I thought it might be you."
He entered the room. "Don't you ever mix up your assignations? Aren't you afraid Jacques will run into Jean-Paul some afternoon?"
"Spiteful. I like my men one at a time, thank you. Did you come here to insult me?"
"No. I came for my handkerchief."
He made love to her all through the afternoon, and into the evening. Finally, sated and exhausted, he admitted defeat. "I can't. I've had it."
"Mmmm, I'm surprised at your stamina," she confessed. "I do feel wonderful, though." She stretched and yawned. "You've made up for lost time today."
He caressed the round curve of her belly. "Thank you for the lessons." He sighed. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to go now."
"Will you come back?"
"No." He went in to the bathroom to wash.
She followed him in. "If it wasn't for Joji, would you come back?" she asked.
"If it wasn't for Joji I wouldn't leave."
"Ah." She coughed and made a face. "I'm leaking." She turned her leg so he could see the trail of his semen on the inside of her thigh. "What was it you said? Mucky business?"
She sat down on the bidet and he watched, fascinated with everything to do with women. She looked over her shoulder. "You want to wash me?"
"I have to go, Marrika. I can't stay and I can't come back."
"I understand. Kiss me one last time and go."
He bent over her and put his heart into the kiss. "I'll never forget," he promised.
"I like you. You have a talent for being romantic under the most prosaic circumstances."
"I like you, too."
When he let himself into their suite, Joji was on the phone. He was speaking Japanese, so presumably he was talking to Yoshi. "Say hello for me," he requested, then went face first onto the bed.
When Hara finished, he sat down on the bed beside Bodie. "The phrase is, I believe, shagged out?"
"Too bloody right."
"Have you eaten yet?"
Bodie chuckled weakly. "Not supper," he replied and Joji tried unsuccessfully to supress a snort of laughter.
"Shall I order something, is what I meant," he insisted.
"Gruel or something. I don't think I have the strength to eat anything strenuous."
"I'll feed you," Hara promised. "Go take a hot bath. You'll feel better." He went off to talk to room service and Bodie dragged himself into the bath.
Over a light supper of crepes and a salad, Bodie admitted that he missed the place he'd begun to think of as home. He missed Mishima and Fuji. He missed Yoshi and the cats. Finally he asked Hara if they could go home soon.
"Whenever you want. You tired of Paris so soon?"
"I'm homesick." And tired of the tension, he thought. He never wanted to see Marrika or Gareth again. "Can we go tomorrow?"
"If you want to."
Bodie had the feeling that Hara knew exactly what had motivated his request.
So they returned to Mishima. The books which they'd shipped from Paris, arrived a fortnight later--the ones Hara had bought Bodie at the English bookstore and the ones he'd bought for himself in several languages. Bodie set to reading his way through them. He tried not to think about Marrika, and most of the time he managed to keep her at the back of his mind. But there were days when he caught himself remembering how she smelled, or how she looked in white satin, or what her hair felt like between his fingers. With the perspective of time, he came to appreciate that it wasn't that he was in love with her, for he didn't know her at all, but that she was his first woman. Now he knew there would be others in his life. He also realized that while Joji was alive, there would be no other men.
"I feel as though God is punishing me for future sins."
Mishima, July 1970
"Can't I please come?" Bodie begged.
Hara shook his head. "It's not worth it, Drew. You're sick. Look at this." He held out the thermometer, but Bodie pushed it away. "That doesn't mean anything. You always said a samurai had to be able to fight under all conditions."
"I'll tell you what--if there's a battle in the streets here tomorrow afternoon, you can go out and lop off a few heads, but otherwise you're staying home. Drew, I'm only going to Tokyo." He shook the thermometer and put it into a glass beside the bed. "I won't be gone more than a few days at most. This one is going to be easy."
"They're never easy. You told me that, too. I want to come with you."
"And I think you'd be a liability. I'd be worried about you the whole time, wondering if you were well enough, if this would make you sicker...no. It's far too risky."
"Call me as soon as you finish then." Bodie drew the covers up to his chin. "Cold," he admitted.
"There, see? Nobody's cold in Japan in July. I'll come back to say goodbye after I've packed."
Bodie lay back against the mound of pillows and sighed. There was no point fighting with Hara, he realized. The man was stubborn. He was also right. But somehow Bodie wasn't satisfied. He was uneasy about this job. Perhaps it was Hara's assertion that it would be a simple hit--in and out in a matter of minutes. Or perhaps it was just a sick fancy. He felt terrible; his head hurt, his stomach was upset, he had a fever and chills. The doctor who had visited earlier in the day had said it was a twenty-four hour bug and had promised that he'd feel better in the morning. Until then he was eating invalid food. What little he did keep down he hated.
Yuki and Mister Stripes hopped up on the bed and curled up beside him.
"I see you have enough company," Hara observed. "I'll call you as soon as it's done. And I'll be back home by Sunday. Take care of yourself, Drew." He bent and kissed Bodie's forehead. "I love you."
"Love you, too, you rat. Take care--promise."
"Cross my heart," he promised with a smile.
Bodie slept fitfully through the night, and as the doctor had promised, he felt much better the next day. Hara called from Tokyo about noon and talked to him for an hour. "I missed you so much last night," he confessed shyly. "I hate being away from you."
"How do you think I feel?"
"Speaking of which, how do you feel?"
"Much better. The fever's way down and I'm starting to feel hungry. You're sure you won't let me catch the train and come up to join you?"
"Okay, okay. Doesn't hurt to ask."
"When I finish with this one we'll go on vacation. Where would you like to go?"
Bodie thought about it for a moment. "London?"
"Mmmhmmm. I've been thinking about going back for a visit. Would you mind?"
"I'd enjoy it."
They chatted on about little things for a while. Bodie found himself babbling about nothing in order to keep Hara on the line.
"Would you like me to bring you anything when I come home?"
"Box of chocolates'd go down a treat," Bodie admitted.
"Chocolates it is. I'd better go. It's getting late. Love you. When I come home I'm going to ravish you," he promised.
"I can't wait. You'll call as soon as you get back to your hotel?"
"On my honour."
He felt better after talking to Joji, and he ate a good dinner and played with the cats for a while. Then he took a book and went back to bed, intending to read until Hara called back that night. He fell asleep over his book.
When he woke, it was morning. The lamp was still burning next to his bed. Had Hara not called? Or had Yoshi not wakened him when the call came?
Fighting down a surge of fear, he jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. "Yoshi... Yoshi, did Hara-san call last night?"
The man shook his head. "No call." He looked very tired. He had no comfort to offer, Bodie realized, and a feeling of nausea washed over him. Why hadn't Hara called? "I'm going to try the hotel," he announced, but there was no answer from Hara's room.
"I will not panic," Bodie told himself. "Nothing has happened. Nothing. It's just taking longer than he expected." He sat beside the phone, willing it to ring.
While he waited, he made deals with God. "Let him call, let him be all right. If you do, I promise to be good. I'll never touch a gun or a sword again. Please let him call." He looked for omens and discarded the results if they boded ill. He waited for three hours by the phone.
When it finally rang, it scared Bodie half to death. He grabbed it. "Hello, Joji?" But it was someone speaking Japanese. He was too agitated to make an effort at understanding, so he handed the receiver to Yoshi.
Yoshi hung up the phone. Bodie looked at the expression on his face and knew what the call had been. He knew without being told that Hara was dead.
In later years Bodie would realize how little he remembered of the next few days. He insisted on going up to Tokyo with Yoshi, but the trip itself and identifying the body--it was all lost to him. Even the funeral was a vague memory. Night after night he would lie awake and tell himself that it had been a mistake, that somehow the irrefutable evidence of Hara's body, cold and pale in the morgue, could be refuted. And when the truth finally began to sink in, Bodie found that he had no tears to shed. He accepted his loss, but not the grief.
Finally, though, he woke with a purpose. He went to Yoshi. "I want to know who did it," he explained. "Hara told me once that there was more to you than met the eye. I think you can find out for me."
"I know already," Yoshi admitted, and didn't seem surprised when Bodie told him what he was going to do. Bodie was going to kill the man responsible for Hara's death.
From then on he was alive again. He planned his revenge with a coolness that surprised himself, drawing on all Hara had ever taught him of the hunt. With Yoshi's help he made his plans.
His target lived in Kyoto. He owned a business there; one he'd acquired sole ownership of after the death of his partner at Hara's hands. He was moving in political circles now and wanted to be free of any possible threat of blackmail so he hired a foreign contractor to eliminate Hara.
It would have been easier to take what he knew to the police, to the newspapers, Bodie supposed. But that would deny him the one thing he wanted--the annihilation of the man who had shattered his life.
On the morning he left for Kyoto, he gave Yoshi his instructions. "If I don't make it, there's no one you have to notify," he explained. "And I want my ashes mixed with Hara's. Everything here is yours except for the few things I'm taking with me now. I won't be coming back here in any event." He made a little formal bow. "Yoshi-san, you have always been kind to me. I thank you."
Yoshi returned the bow and in Japanese replied, "I am fond of you, Bodie-san. I shall never forget you."
"Take good care of the cats?"
"Like my own children."
Then Bodie left the house forever. He carried with him several books, his clothes, a few of the gifts Hara had given him over the years, two katana--his own and Hara's, and a photograph he'd found in Hara's desk. It was of a woman and a young boy standing in front of St. Paul's. It was the only picture he had of Hara.
The passport he carried listed him as Phillip Williams, resident of Mishima. It was quite a good passport; expensive. He had several others in his luggage--different names, different countries of origin. Under his jacket he wore a shoulder holster and one of Hara's guns.
Kyoto was very different from Tokyo; more traditional, peaceful. He thought it a shame that he and Hara had never visited it. He checked into a traditional hotel, then went out to stalk his prey.
He learned the man's routine. Early mornings at a health club, on to his office where he worked straight through lunch. Afternoons were for meetings, though once a week, on Monday, his barber would come in and trim his hair. In the evening he entertained; sometimes business associates, but more often political cronies. He had a quiet wife who saw very little of him, and no children. That was odd. Most Japanese had several children early in marriage; family was important in Japan. The man was seldom alone which made Bodie's task difficult, though not impossible.
He spoke to the geisha in the tea house where the man entertained. "Is he patron to any one of you?" he asked. Being patron to a geisha was something of a status symbol.
The women giggled behind their hands. "He is interested in other things," one of them said, but none would say more.
It was like a gift from heaven, and Bodie was almost dizzy with excitement. If the man liked other men, his problem was solved. He began to plan accordingly.
He shadowed his target for nearly a week. Twice the man worked late. Twice he went home to his wife, and once he went to a hotel. On the fifth night, he took a client to the teahouse and Bodie decided it was time to make contact. He waited outside for half an hour, then went in and sat down in a small, private room. He ordered sake.
About an hour later Bodie went off to use the benjo. On his way back he walked into the wrong tea room. "Your pardon," he begged. "I made a wrong turn." He bowed, then looked up into the eyes of the man who had murdered his lover. He saw there what he had hoped to see--interest, desire.
He left the room and returned to his own, where he ordered dinner.
Several hours later, one of the geisha entered with a note. It said: "Please do me the honour of taking a cup of sake with me." Bodie smiled.
"Your invitation was most welcome," Bodie told him. "Though it came as a surprise." He sat down opposite the man.
"I wished to know more of the Westerner who speaks such good Japanese and who knows something of our ways." He introduced himself.
"My name is Patrick O'Hara and I was born in Dublin, though I've lived in Japan for many years. I think it must be my spiritual home."
"How charming." The man's English was good, though heavily accented. Bodie complimented him on it.
"It brings one up," the man explained. "Very important in business. What do you do for a living?"
"Computers. I design systems."
He was impressed by the answer. "And are you married?"
"No? How sad."
"Not at all," Bodie replied, sipping his sake. "By choice. I have no desire for marriage..." He paused just long enough to suggest the reasons. "At this time," he added.
They made small talk and drank quite a bit of sake. Bodie, who had a good head for liquor, pretended mild drunkenness. "You married, then?" he asked.
"I suppose I'll have to soon enough. Appearances. They're starting to think there's something wrong with me."
"It is a very traditional country, but within limits there is room for one's...pleasures."
I was right, Bodie thought with growing elation. He played his next card.
"I have to be careful in my line of work. Can't be too obvious, you know. Sensitive stuff. Government." This was the extra bit of bait for a big fish.
"Ah, of course." The signs of interest were unmistakable.
The conversation turned to more mundane matters after that, and Bodie wondered if he'd have to arrange a few more meetings before he could find a way to be alone with the man. But just as he began to feel frustrated at the slowness of his progress, the man asked if he could drive Bodie back to his hotel.
"If it's not out of your way."
"Not at all. It will be my pleasure."
This could be it, Bodie thought, and for the first time, he was frightened. If he moved too soon, if he was too anxious, if the man didn't make an advance... Anything could happen. It could still go wrong. He didn't have to pretend to be unsteady as they walked out to the car.
And then he remembered meeting Hara. It had happened like this, in a teahouse. He had a brief flash of rage so terrible that he shook with the effort of suppressing it. Then it was gone, and in its place was a new resolve. No matter what, this man wouldn't live out the night.
Once in the car, the man seemed more at ease. Bodie first noticed a subtle pressure against his knee. Then a hand slipped down to brush against Bodie's thigh. Bodie smiled and moved closer. The man's hand moved up and brushed the bulge at Bodie's crotch. Bodie sighed. Strangely, he felt nothing, no revulsion, no anger. It was going well. They pulled up in front of the hotel Bodie had said he was staying at.
"Isn't there somewhere else we can go?" he asked, getting just the right note of breathy suggestiveness in his voice. "I can't bring you in here; my company is paying for the room and they know who I am here."
"I know a place."
The man drove them to a tatty little hotel at the edge of town; the same one he'd gone to earlier in the week. It must have been the place he brought all his tricks. He paid for the room in advance and snuck Bodie in the side door. Everything was falling into place.
They entered the room and Bodie slipped a glove onto his right hand, pulled out the gun and put a hole between the man's eyes. "For Hara," he whispered. He would have liked to let the man know why he was going to die, but Hara had always said, "make it quick and make it clean." For his sake, out of respect to the memory of Hara-sensei, Bodie had done both.
He let himself out and left by the same side door, unseen by the staff either coming or going. He went directly to the train station where he'd left his luggage and caught the night train to Tokyo. He called Yoshi from the statin in Tokyo.
"It's done," he said. "Goodbye, Yoshi-san."
He went down to the docks and found a freighter taking on cargo. He dropped his gun and holster into the water and walked up the gangplank. "Where you bound?" he asked one of the sailors.
"Need any hands?"
The fireworks over,
The people all gone--
How dark it is!
Johannesburg, November 1970
The bar was nearly empty on a Monday night, but Bodie was just as happy. He ordered a drink and took it to a table in the back. He was supposed to meet his contact there; a man named Max who would take him out to Angola. They needed soldiers there, mercenaries, and there was something of the ronin about Bodie--the masterless samurai. Hara had often remarked on it.
The memory brought with it the sharp pain of loss, of the moment when his life had been changed forever because of someone else's ambition. He realized that he was doing this because he had nothing else to offer, only his life. No love, no compassion or affection, no feelings at all. Not even hate. He was emptied out. He would be an efficient solder. He feared nothing.
Everything he owned he'd sent, in a package addressed to himself, to his sister in Liverpool. She'd keep it for him until he called for it, unopened, unquestioned. Mattie was like that.
Stacked in the corner were old newspapers, and Bodie took the top one and began to read. It was a week old, but it really didn't matter. He'd been out of touch so long, anything would seem like news.
On the second page he found an obituary. Yukio Mishima, Japanese author, dead at forty-five. One of Hara's favourite authors. He'd committed seppuku.
Bodie set the paper down and sipped his whisky.
The way of the samurai is death.
-- THE END --
Glossary of Japanese words
bakayaro--Not quite translatable. This is, from what I can gather, the worst insult in the Japanese language. Think of the worst insult in English and add mother-fucker to it, and you've probably got the idea. People have been killed for using this word carelessly.
benjo--a very important word. Toilet, lavatory.
bokken--a piece of wood (frequently oak) about the length of a katana, and weighted the same, used for practicing kenjutsu without hacking your opponent to bits. In the right hands, though, it's a formidable weapon in its own right. I own one and I sure wouldn't want to get hit with it.
bunraku--puppet theatre. Samurai were at one time forbidden both bunraku and kabuki theatre because it was thought that only the more refined noh theatre was the only proper entertainment for them. They snuck in anyway.
danna--a patron or protector.
danshokuka--politely, a sodomite. Impolitely, a faggot. Probably used impolitely most of the time.
dojo--a school, a place where martial arts are learned.
futon--a bed made of six layers of material. It's rolled up every morning to make more space.
eisu-kuremu--ice cream. One of those English words the Japanese have adapted.
geisha--a woman from the willow world. Geisha are not prostitutes, even though some of the less reputable among them do sometimes engage in that profession. These women are highly- trained entertainers.
hakama--a cross between trousers and a skirt. Sort of like culottes for men. Usually worn over a kimono jacket. I think they're sort of sexy, actually.
kata--a ritualized series of movements designed to simulate combat. They are as much a way of training the mind as the body.
katana--the samurai's sword. So wickedly sharp that when thrust into a stream, it will slice through a leaf carried against the blade by even the gentlest current, yet so strong that almost nothing can break or bend a well-made katana. Katana used to be tested on stacks of dead bodies, and rated according to how many bodies they would slice through. Sometimes they were tested on bodies that weren't quite dead yet. This practice is somewhat out of style today as it is awfully messy.
kenjutsu--The martial art of fighting with the katana or sword. This is the original form from which Kendo is derived.
kendo--a derivation of kenjutsu in which the opponents wear elaborate armour and bash each other senseless with bamboo sticks instead of swords.
kimono--a robe. Traditional Japanese attire for both men and women.
kissu--kiss as taken from English.
korobi geisha--roll-over geisha; a prostitute.
miso--a soup made of fermented soybeans, barley, rice etc. It takes some getting used to for some people.
mizu-age--the sexual initiation of a geisha by an older man.
obi--the belt or sash worn with a kimono.
okasan--literally, mother. The older woman who acts as surrogate or den mother for a house full of geisha.
oshiroi--the matte white makeup geisha use. It's made from nightengale droppings. The things geisha do for their art. otoko--male, as in otoko geisha. And yes, there were male geisha at one time. In fact, geisha were exclusively male to begin with, but women were more popular in the profession.
Rondon--London. Honest. This is the place name in Japanese.
sake--an alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice. I think it tastes a bit like sherry.
samurai--the warrior class of feudal Japan. Also known as bushi.
-san--appended to the end of one's name out of politeness. Not exactly like Mr. or Ms. but close.
sarariman--salaryman, the modern day equivalent of the peasant. The Japanese executive. The average salaryman makes about $200,000 a year and pays about 88% of that to the government which puts the IRS into some sort of perspective, doesn't it?
seppuku--hara kiri, or the act of self-disembowelment. This is the way samurai chose to die, and there are several rationales for this bizarre choice. It is said that it is the act of exposing one's very spirit (said to be housed in the abdomen-- remember Wild Justice?). Yukio Mishima maintained that the samurai chose to disembowel themselves mainly to prove they could; that they were brave enough to chose such an unpleasant way to die. They were strange but they weren't crazy--A trusted friend acted as a second to behead the disembowelee at the moment when his agony seemed to be overwhelming. The second would try to judge his stroke so accurately that just a small flap of skin would remain to connect head to body, so the head wouldn't roll around on the matting in an unseemly manner. Appearances are all. Seppuku is the preferred word for the act in Japan. shamisen--three stringed instrument similar to a koto.
shoji screen--the rice-paper screens that form the doors and interior walls in traditional Japanese houses.
tatami--rice-fiber matting that covers the floors of Japanese homes.
udon--a broad, flat wheat noodle.
yakuza--gangster. The Japanese mafia. I've heard rumours that they're such lousy shots, they carry katana just to make sure. Yakuza are among the most enthusiastic customers of the famous Japanese tattoo artists, and frequently have their entire bodies covered in tattoos.
yukata--a plain cotton kimono or robe.
The research for this story comes from a long-time interest in things Japanese, but specific details were taken from a number of books (thanks again, Betty). I would like to particularly recommend Autumn Lightning: The Education of an American Samurai by Dave Lowry. This is a book not only about martial arts, but about East meeting West. It is from this book that I took my inspiration for Bodie's training as a bushi.