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How K.Ito Met Kurorin

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To tell the truth, he was secretly thrilled that Ito was going to help with the album. He should have been angry at how Ito just agreed to meet at the studio without first asking, but Michihiro enjoyed the give and take on musical viewpoints with the guitarist. However, Baba was not, having spent part of the drive to the studio asking him questions about why did he not shot Ito down before he wormed his way into the production and the rest grumbling about having to deal with a redheaded gaijin. Michihiro didn't bother to try to answer or even correct Baba, instead he watched the scenery go by and let the words flow around him.

Inside the studio, the band was jostling each other and acting stupid as they settled down. There were a few good natured jokes at Michihiro bringing Rhapsody to the studio that he answered with a slight smile before he took her into a separate room. Baba news about Ito's sudden inclusion to the album's line-up had the rest of the band make even more jokes until Katsuragi summoned it up with a laugh and a shrug.

"Well, it should be interesting with three guitars. Think the bass will manage to keep up?"

Konnno stuck his tongue out and grabbed some paper. "I'll blow you out of the water, guitar man."

More laughter and Michihiro looked up just in time to see Ito slip into the room. He smiled and looked down quickly, piling his notes together as he stood up.

"Everyone," he said and the rest of the band fell silent. "Please welcome Ito Kenichi to our group."

There were bows and handshakes around. Ito talked rapidly, some of his Japanese slurring together and Michihiro knew that sometimes he gave the impression of being gaijin just by the way he acted. A big goof, a little bit of a clown, but when he glanced over at him, Michihiro could see that Ito was only playing a game. It was scary how he could read him, but they had worked together for so long, had spent so much time near each other, that it would have been strange to not read him and his moods.

He let them get acquainted while he went to check on Rhapsody in the spare room, making sure she had water and spent a few minutes petting her. Then it was back into the conference room, taking out a fresh cigarette and lighting up while looking over his band. He looked at Ito, Ito looked at him and slowly Michihiro blew smoke and nodded. Ito's eyebrows rose, flashes of emotion crossing his face before his friendly, goofy musical persona fell into place. Michihiro smiled thinly at the challenge and threw himself at his chair and his notes. It was time for work.

Break found him back in the side room with Rhapsody, feeding her pieces of chicken from his own lunch. He sat on the floor with his legs stretched out, a yakitori skewer in one hand and Rhapsody on his lap. Tearing a piece off, he looked at the tidbit and made a face before holding it out to the dog.

"Too spicy, huh?"

"I guess so," he replied, not looking up. Rhapsody yipped and jumped off, sniffing Baba;'s pants leg before patting his feet with her paws. He squatted down, scratching her behind her ears and Michihiro put the food down on his plate, drawing his legs up to his chest.

"You should eat something though, it's going to be a long day."

"I'm not really hungry."

Baba frowned and sighed. "Kuroda-san. . ."

"Don't." Michihiro toyed with the end of his necklace, feeling the links between his fingers. "You know I don't eat much during work."

"And you know what the doctor told us," Baba replied, the argument as fresh and raw as the day it started. "We don't want to take you back there."

Tired of trying to get Baba to per her, Rhapsody came back to Michihiro, bumping her head against his elbow. He uncurled enough to pet her, refusing to look at his guitarist and acknowledge what he just said. He didn't want to end up back there, with a needle in his arm and the stern look the doctor gave him along with a list of what he needed to do to get the needle out.

"I don't think he's helping this either."

He did look up, frowning at the sound in Baba's voice. It took him a moment to realize what he meant. Shrugging, he looked back down at Rhapsody, picking his dog up and cradling her in his arms.

"You really don't like him."

Baba ran his hands through his hair, the curls going every which way. "No, I don't, but I don't like seeing people hurt you."

"Then you must really hate me," Michihiro muttered, picking up Rhapsody's ball and tossed it. She was out of his arms after it, tail moving and tongue wagging, and he smiled.

"Just. . . eat something, okay? For me?"

"I'll try."

They both knew it was a lie, but neither one would say it, Michihiro because he would openly admit that it was a problem, and Baba because he only wished Michihiro to realize how harmful it was. They were both stubborn in where they stood and thus nothing ever truly changed. After a few minutes of watching Michihiro play with Rhapsody, Baba left the room. In the quiet save for his dog's little yelps, Michihiro sighed and closed his eyes.

"How about I treat everyone to some shabu-shabu?"

"Do you really think he'll like you better?" Michihiro looked up, watching as Ito sat up and looked over the screen that half-hid the couch he was sitting on. Ito had followed him into the room when he left the table, but when he had made it clear he was not willing to talk, he just slunk behind the screen to rest his eyes. Michihiro was not surprised when he started snoring although he found it highly funny that Baba did not hear him or seen his legs sticking out.

The guitarist waved a hand shrugging slightly. "I figure that it would at least show that you're eating something after a hard day's work."

Michihiro finished stripping the chicken from the skewer and stood up, tossing the skewers away. He then filled a small cup with water from his bottle and rolled his shoulders in a shrug. Ito had a point – even if it sounded like the wrong idea.

"Might as well. You might actually start a trend."

"Cool. I like starting trends."

Glancing at him from under the fall of his hair, Michihiro muttered 'idiot' under his breath before heading back to the conference room. A few minutes later, Ito followed him into the room and announced his idea to the band. There were a few mutters, but it had been a long day and the idea of free food must have had appealed to them. Michihiro shook his head at the magic of the Ito before taking out an idea sheet that had been giving him problems. It took a few minutes of good natured teasing the orange-haired guitarist before the rest of the band realized that Michihiro was working and joined in.