Three hours and they were still talking, the air heavy with smoke and empty cans stacked neatly in a pyramid on the table. Michihiro placed one more on the very top, sucking his breath and smiling as it stood in place. Reaching over his shoulder, Ito flicked his index finger against the pyramid's side, starting a small tremor that had the cans falling, a few spilling their last few drops all over the place. Michihiro watched the cans land, a few rolling under the floor and sighed, wondering why he felt like those cans.
The answer was simple – him. Always him with his goofy smiles and waving hands and a lankness that gave him the appearance of a scarecrow trying to fly. Smiling at the image, he picked up the cans and nudged the guitarist with his foot. Ito raised both eyebrows and Michihiro looked pointedly at the cans that ended up in the doorway. There was a much put-upon sigh as Ito stood up and retrieved them.
"You haven't changed, man," Ito said, tossing the cans and wiping his hands off. Michihiro blinked and picked up a cigarette pack, making a face when he realized it was empty.
"You make enough noise for the two of us," he said, finding a pack with a few lonely cigarettes still inside. He took one out and lit up.
"Ouch, man. Just ouch!"
He smiled and tossed the pack at Ito. The guitarist laughed and busied himself with cigarette and lighter, silence falling between them as he did so. Michihiro took the top sheet of paper and looked over what he had wrote, settling back on his couch as he did so. It shifted as Ito flopped on the cushion next to him and stretched out, the fingers of his hand brushing against his neck. He glanced over at Ito and met his gaze.
"Ito," he said, seeing his face flush.
"So. . . Kuroda?"
He raised an eyebrow and Ito suddenly looked away, bringing his arms in close to his chest. Michihiro looked at the doorway and shook his head, wishing for a door. What he wanted to do right now would not only be improper but also something neither of them needed someone to walk in on. Instead he raised the paper up for Ito to read, smiling a little at the expressions playing across his face.
"What do you think?"
Ito took the paper and read over the scribbled lines, his face suddenly serious. Michihiro leaned back, looking up at the ceiling and watched the smoke as it drifted in the narrow beams of light. They both worked differently when it came to music, but in the end they were both good at hearing what the other was getting at. A trick, a talent, something that just clicked even when they worked from different angles. Maybe that was what had annoyed him the most in the end. He had enjoyed the give and take but he was blocked from that part of music only to be given tiny pieces like a favored pet.
"Kuroda, wake up!"
He opened his eyes – when did he close them? - and frowned at Ito's expression. Ito raised his eyebrows, his smile growing, laugh lines appearing and Michihiro snorted and sat up. Recalling one of his first times in making a promotional video – he had been so nervous, so excited to sleep the night before that he didn't fall asleep until he arrived at the studio and crashed on a couch – he just rolled his eyes and snatched the paper back. While he was dozing, Ito had made some slight notations next to his lyric lines, punctuated by little dancing beans.
"So you like it?" he asked, nodding to himself at the chord progression.
"Yeah," Ito replied, finishing off his cigarette and checking the pack for more. There was none and he sighed, crumpling it. "Do you got any more?"
"No, sorry. I didn't plan on working with the band today," Michihiro said, making a note under Ito's handwriting. Maybe it would work with a heavier guitar sound. . . and his pen was drawing a simple melody under the lyrics, the paper filling up until he had to stop and look for more paper.
"Why aren't you using your computer?"
Michihiro blinked and looked over at Ito. He was leaning close, his fingers playing with the ends of his scarf and there was a hint of a smile on his lips. Michihiro looked down at the papers and laughed slightly, shuffling them together before fanning them out. "Ah, I am just getting some ideas together."
"Same old Kuroda, huh?"
He searched Ito's face for any hint of mockery, but only saw a gentle smile, a slight tease at how he worked with his hands far better than with the aid of a machine. He looked down and stacked the papers together, the sheet with Ito's notes on top and and nodded.
"I guess so."
He laughed and shook his head, looking down at his watch and then looking around the room. "So, no band today?"
"Tomorrow they should be here and then we'll get to work."
"Okay," he said and slapped his hands on his knees. Standing, he ran his hands through his hair, the orange strands glowing in the shafts of sunlight. "Did you eat?"
"Er," Michihiro said, and bit his lip. He looked away from Ito, chewing on his lower lip as he tried to remember if he did. There was that morning and walking Rhapsody and a stop at a store.
"Well, I'm starving so why don't we talk over some burgers," Ito continued, easily breaking the awkwardness that fell over him. "There's still a lot to catch up on."
"Yeah, I guess so."
Then his hands were touching the top of his head, a brief ruffle of his hair, and Michihiro's breath caught as he looked up at the guitarist. Ito was smiling, and while his face held a few more lines, that smile was still as friendly as he remembered.
"So quiet, man."
He answered the smile with one of his own, looking away to pack everything away for work the next day. "You know me. Burgers? Isn't that too fattening?"
"Put some cheese on it and maybe it will be even better than fattening."
Michihiro raised an eyebrow. "Is that right?"
"It'll be delicious." Ito winked and started laughing at the face he made. "But first, we need to grab some smokes. I'm completely out."
"That's not my fault."
"Hey, so says the man that forgot to bring more than a pack."
Snorting, Michihiro swatted at his arm, missing but still feeling a little less heavy than he had earlier. Even eating something greasy didn't make his stomach churn as normal. Ito laughed as he stepped outside the room, calling out good bye to the staff in the hall, and Michihiro slung his messenger bag over his shoulder, taking another look at the room. Nodding to himself, he followed the lanky form towards the exit, smiling at the idiot's wide grin. Maybe this wasn't going to be a bad day after all.
He nibbled on a french fry, elbows on the table as he half-slouched in his chair. Across from him, Ito licked his fingers clean of sauce before plucking a napkin from the holder and wiping his hands. Ito had first led him to a store to buy cigarettes, chatting all the while about his drummer's kids and the lack of love in the life of his rabbits before dragging him into the McDonald's next door. They ordered, found a place to sit and dug in, Ito with relish and Michihiro taking his time. They didn't talk much, and it didn't feel uncomfortable as it usually did for him, but as Ito looked at him, Michihiro knew that the peace wasn't going to last.
"Sixth album, huh?" Ito said, leaning over and taking a fry off Michihiro's tray.
Michihiro's eyes narrowed as he picked up his half-eaten burger and took a bite. "Mm."
"Man, you're a hard worker," he replied and swiped another fry. Michihiro stared at him. "I wish I could work that hard."
"You're the one with the producing company," he replied, taking a swallow of soda. Ito reached over to steal another fry and Michihiro smacked the back of his hand before he could touch them. "I'm eating that."
"You are not."
"I am too. See?" He took two fries and ate them quickly. Ito frowned and pushed his chair back.
"I want more fries."
"Then go get some. I'm going to eat all this."
It was only after Ito went back to charm himself more french fries that Michihiro realized just what had occurred. He looked down at his food – more than he had eaten in the past week – and chuckled to himself, looking over at the window. Ito came back with fresh fries, caught the smile on his face and flopped down in his plastic seat.
"See? Told you it would be a good idea."
Michihiro looked at him and raised his soda in a salute. "I bow to your wisdom, super wrestler Ito-san."
Covering his mouth as he laughed, Michihiro watched Ito sputter and almost spill his fries all over the floor in his attempt to tell him off. After that, they quickly finished their food, their talk about the past good times, the fun they had during their travels and concerts, the photo shoots, back stage antics. The memories didn't seem to bother him as much, a thought that made his side of the conversation trail off as they walked, just enjoying hearing Ito's side of the past. It was odd, but it almost sounded as if he forgot pieces of that life.
They were standing outside near a small park, the trees covered with new leaves, a few people walking under the dappled shade, their voices a gentle murmur against the sounds of the city. Michihiro looked up at the trees, his hands in his pockets and his mind far away. Ito was standing close, a cigarette in his hand as he watched a courting couple walk by. He carefully tapped ash off and tilted his head, his cheeks slightly red when he spoke.
"I miss working with you."
Closing his eyes, Michihiro smiled, nodding in response. Ito laughed, the sound mingling with the traffic and the voices and he had to look up and away before he broke down. Ito threw his arm over his shoulders, leaning against him and blew smoke into his hair.
"You're so quiet, man."
He snorted, shoving his elbow into Ito's gut and hearing him laugh and wheeze at the same time. He grinned and started walking, Ito running to catch up. They fell into an easy pace, Ito quiet for once and Michihiro thought at how easy it was to accept this easy companionship. It was like the past five years had dried up and drifted away as leaves before a winter's wind. He stopped, hesitating to catch a cab and end their talk, catching the look Ito gave him.
"I'm heading home," he said, leaving it out there while looking at him.
Ito blinked and closed his mouth, his hands going to the back of his head. He colored and against the orange of his hair, Ito's face looked almost as if he rubbed his cheeks into tomato sauce. Michihiro waited for him to say something or move but all he did was fidget with his scarf. Closing his eyes, he turned away. Maybe he was just wishing for something that would not happen.
"Kuroda?" He stopped and waited, hearing Ito take a deep breath. "Do you regret. . . us?"
Michihiro felt the back of his neck tighten, a bitter aftertaste in his mouth and the peace of the day gone. He turned and leaned up, making Ito squeak and his eyes widening.
"I regret," he said, calm against the rawness of his thoughts. "That I did not say anything to you. I regret that I had to watch you set what we were together aside to please Asakura. I regret I never spoke up over each act you did that made me wish I had never met you. And I regret that you are too much of an idiot to see otherwise."
Leaving him to stand there staring, Michihiro walked rapidly down the street, wishing to kick something and knowing that such a childish display would not prove anything but his bruised ego.