Mornings should not make him feel like this – this gray, this lifeless. He sipped his morning miso, Rhapsody a bundle of hyperness as she chased a ball across the room, back and forth, back and forth. He made a face at his cup and dumped the rest of his morning meal down the drain and then bent down to catch the ball as it came past and tossed it in a new direction. Rhapsody changed directions and chased after it, tail wagging and feet pounding and he slowly collapsed against the cupboards, legs pulled up to his chest and his head resting against his knees.
Everything felt out of focus, brittle like an old photograph left in the sea. He had a chance to just accept things and move on, to let Ito tell him that they had been a mistake and try to go on from there. But he had said the things he had wished to say for years to him but had sometimes been said against the winds in the American desert or the spray of the showers, and now he wasn't sure where he stood. His balance had shifted again, and he disliked that feeling more than anything else.
A cold wet nose pressed against the inside of his wrist, and Michihiro jerked and looked down. Rhapsody looked up, head cocked and ears standing up and bumped her muzzle against his hand again. He smiled and scratched behind her ears, picking the small dog up and holding her close.
"Ah, I am a melodramatic fool, aren't I?"
He got a lick and a sharp yelp for that. Smiling a little, he climb to his feet, stooping to pick up the ball and then carrying them both over to his gear for the day. He decided that Rhapsody could come with him since all they were doing was planning the direction of the music and working on ideas. She could use the excursion and he could use having someone around that didn't judge him and only wanted to be held and played with.
His doorbell chimed and he pressed the enter button without checking who it was. It was a little early for Baba to show up, but maybe he was just as eager to start the album as Michihiro was. As nice as the breaks were, they dragged on too long without some kind of activity going on. His dog in his arms, he went to the door and opened it without looking through the peep hole. If he had looked, he might not have opened it in such a hurry for standing there, in an Rolling Stones tee shirt and torn jeans, was Ito.
"Uh," was Michihiro's brilliant greeting.
Ito fussed with his skull ring and nodded. They looked at each other, separated by invisible miles compressed inside the inches between their feet. Michihiro felt he had to say something, but the words were stuck in his throat. As for Ito, he looked like he had forgotten all forms of speech as well as the ability to look him in the eyes. Luckily for them both, Rhapsody decided to try to wiggle free, making hMichihiro start and try to shush her. Taking that as his cue, Ito stepped inside and reached over to pluck the dog from Michihiro's arms.
"Who's a pretty girl? Rhapsody is, yes she is!"
"Stop talking to her like that."
Ito looked over the top of Rhaspody's head and smiled. "She likes it."
Sighing, Michihiro crossed his arms over his chest and looked away. "What do you want?"
"Uh." It was Ito's turn to become eloquent. Rhapsody barked and licked his nose making the guitarist sputter and hold her out at arms' length. Michihiro took her back and scratched her behind the ears.
"I guess. . ." Ito waved both hands and then shook his head, taking a deep breath. "You're right."
Michihiro glanced up, his brows drawn down. "I'm. . .what?"
Ito looked at the floor, his fingers twisting his ring. "You're right."
The guitarist raised his head and came closer, making Michihiro raise Rhapsody up against his chest as a barrier. Ito looked serious – not his stage-face serious, but the kind he had sometimes seen when they had been working together and something was bothering Ito deeply. He took another step back, Rhapsody squirming in his hands and Ito came too close looking down from his two inch advantage, his eyes soft in his hard face.
"Michi," he said, the old nickname a private one between the two of them, his fingers brushing moth-like against his cheek. "I'm sorry. I'm always messing things up. I don't think I deserve anything good and we were good, too good, and I just couldn't face it."
"Ken. . ." Don't do this, he wanted to say but he couldn't get the words past his lips, could barely think with the closeness of someone he had never expected to see again.
They jumped back from each other, Michihiro almost tripping over his shoes and Ito banging his elbow against the curve of the wall. Rhapsody yipped and wiggled in an attempt to get away, and Michihiro took a deep breath as he looked away from Ito. A few seconds later another person was in the doorway, a pair of sunglasses pushed back into his fuzzy mop of hair and his grin fading as he looked from Michihiro to Ito and back again.
"I rang but you didn't answer," he said, his words trailing off. Michihiro cleared his throat and put Rhapsody into her bag and looked around for her ball. Ito picked up and held it out and silently Michihiro took it and dropped it into the bag.
"Sorry," Michihiro replied, slipping his shoes on. "We were talking."
Something in his tone made Michihiro look up at Baba who was staring at Ito. Ito was smiling, but the smile looked false to the singer, as if he had forced the smile in place. Deciding to just let the two of them introduce themselves, he fetched the rest of his things. Book bag and keys in hand, he headed out the door, ignoring the two staring guitarists. It took them a minute or two before they realized that he had left and to scramble after him, not that he went far. He ignored their babbling apologies and instead made sure to lock his door and arm the alarm before heading towards the bus stop. There was scrambling after him and both guitarists were in his path, Ito red-faced and Baba bouncing from heel-to-toe. Michihiro stopped and tilted his head.
"So are we going to put this album together?"
Baba opened his mouth. He looked at Ito. He closed his mouth and nodded. Ito broke out into a full grin, this one putting crinkles in his face and around his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah! Let's do this, man."
Nodding, Michihiro jerked his head back to Baba's car. "I'll meet you there, Ito."