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How K.Ito Met Kurorin

Chapter Text

Michihiro leaned back in the couch, a half-smoked cigarette in his hand and sheets of paper spread out around him. Scribbled notes, pieces of ideas, floating sentences. None of them had really come together yet, but he could hear it forming in his head. That was a good sign – he knew where he was going with this idea.

A polite knock on the door frame cut into his thoughts and he looked up, seeing one of the newer assistants standing in the entrance. She bobbed her head, saying something about him having a visitor and did Kuroda-san wanted to see him? He asked who was it, and she hid her blush behind her hand, bobbing again like one of those toys he had seen in America. He had to coax the name from her slowly, but when he did manage to get the name he just stared at her, his smile fading as memory stirred.

Heated words and bitter accusations flung about a dumpy dressing room, his hands shaking as he tried and failed to light up a cigarette. The guitarist just sitting there with his expression as remote as a stone Buddha, words flying with all the power of bullets. Michihiro almost smashed in that over-sized nose before leaving the room, not stopping until he had walked into a neighboring bar and attempted to drown himself in some sake. Unfortunately Asakura had found him and dragged him back to the stage before he could have more than a sip, something which Michihiro had resented on top of everything else.

He had been just the vocalist. His ideas were not welcomed after the first few songs he wrote lyrics for - he was too playful, too optimistic compared to what Asakura wanted for their musical direction. It was okay though since Michihiro had been so new, so awkward at first that he let the elder musicians take control. He put up with the way things were even after he got used to everything only because of Ito and the understanding they had between them until the end when Ito broke everything apart.

But that had been years ago and he felt like a different man. The trip to America had been a good one, the vastness of the desert calming and the beauty of the sunsets filling up a piece of his soul that missed the simple life. And there was the wind, always soft or hard, calming and constant as the waves of a sea. He loved the desert and the unbelievable blue of the skies and the strange people that lived and worked without the hectic pace of the Tokyo lifestyle.

Realizing that he was staring into space for longer than necessary, Michihiro shook himself and blew out the breath he was holding, leaning forward to crush his cigarette butt in the ashtray and picking up his pack for a fresh one.

"Show him in," he said, and lit up. He thought for a moment about clearing away his papers but then mentally shrugged – why hide what he was doing from another musician? - and then Ito was there, laughing at something the assistant had said before she left the two alone. He looked good, his hair down and dyed a bright orange color, long guitarist hands toying with the corners of a tri-colored scarf trying to out-glow his hair. He stood up and smiled, seeing the emotions play across Ito's face until he was smiling back, a little shyly, but smiling all the same.

"I'm sorry," he said, tugging hard on a scarf end. "I didn't mean to interrupt you while working."

"It's fine." He swept the papers up into a pile and set them on top of his old laptop. "I haven't really started composing yet."

"A new album?" Ito asked, sliding into the room. Michihiro wished he had chosen a room with a door, but he nodded and sat back down. Ito looked around, made an abrupt step towards the same couch he was sitting on before taking a seat on the couch opposite him, flopping down in a carelessly boneless way that was both familiar and disturbing.

"My sixth one," he said, grabbing a throw pillow and hugging it close. Across from him, Ito was lighting up, holding his cigarette up in the air and cupping his elbow with his free hand.

"Congratulations."

Michihiro rubbed his nose and watched him for a moment, wondering what was going on inside of his orange and fluffy head. Ito played with his scarf ends, looking every where but at him and he sighed to himself, wondering if Asakura had sent him. If he was honest with himself, it would probably be Ito that he would accept back in his life before he would acknowledge Asakura's existence. At least Ito had been honest with him.

Ito slumped in his seat and let out a huge whoosh of air. "I don't even know how to begin," he said, taking a long drag on his cigarette. Michihiro stayed quiet, only glancing at the doorway for signs of any eavesdroppers. Ito got up and started pacing, waving his hands as he talked. "You're just. . . you. So quiet and so. . . so. . . I just don't know what to think around you."

"It wasn't easy for me," he replied, hugging the pillow tighter. He didn't want to talk about this, didn't want to think about it, but it was out and Ito was just having verbal diarrhea now that it was out there.

"You could have just say something or do something or just throw something or -" he ran both hands through his hair, sending soft spikes around his face, his words muffled by the cigarette in his mouth "- just something, man! Do you have any idea what I had thought?"

"I don't know, did you think that maybe I expected something more from you?"

"Like what?"

Ito stared at him, puffing hard on his smoke and eyes narrowed. He tossed the pillow aside and got up, walking over to him and seeing his expression change, lines appearing around his eyes and lips as he glanced over to the entrance. Michihiro stopped inches away and looked up. Ito's face was flushed and he rubbed at the back of his neck, looking everywhere but at him.

Michihiro reached up and lightly smacked him on the top of the head. "Idiot. I expected to hear from you sooner."

"You're not mad?"

"It was a long time ago." Five years by his count although he had been talked into doing a few things before allowed to sign off completely. Michihiro smiled and heading for the doorway. "Take a seat. I'll get us something to drink and you can tell me all about life without Asakura."

Chapter Text

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.

"So quiet."

"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.

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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."

"Fine."

"Good."

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."

"Hey!"

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.

"Kuroda?"

"Yes, Ito?"

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.

Chapter Text

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.

"Kuroda-san?"

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."

"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."

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

He drank too much. He knew he drank too much by how heavy he felt, as if his limbs had been replaced by leaden weights covered in sand. But he didn't feel as gray as heavy drinking usually made him feel, none of the gray masses of clouds or the swimming white faces replacing the real faces around him. Instead objects glistened as if they had been covered in latex, tiny motes of gold catching the light here and there, filling the air with brilliant bubbles of fragile rainbows.

The small shabu-shabu restaurant might not have seen so many musicians at one table, the loud chatter over riffs and notes and bars drifting over the table inter-mixing with off-color remarks about concerts or peers in the field. It did rise to the challenge of preparing a large spread of food and drinks, and seeing to the comforts of the staff that followed them and were added to the bill. Michihiro blinked at this sign of Ito generosity before remembering that they did it before, in those years when the music was still fresh.

Maybe that was why he drank more than he should be drinking. Or maybe it was how Ito smiled in a way that made Michihiro feel bitter and old. He wasn't sure at this point and he didn't care as his fingers fumbled with his cigarettes as the last traces of the meal were swept away by attentive servers. He managed to get one out without tearing his pack in half, and didn't burn his hand as he lit up. It took a little more effort to get everything back where they belong but he felt much better with the nicotine in his lungs.

He waved aside the next drink, watching through narrow eyes as Ito and Baba had some kind of contest involving rice cakes and napkins. Katsuragi was reaching over and try to knock the rice cakes off the napkins while Konnno kept on disrupting his attempts by hitting Katsuragi with bits of paper. Okuda and Nagai were both swiping drinks from everyone and either drinking them or handing them to staff members. Foreseeing that this was one impromptu party he was willing to miss, Michihiro pushed away from the table, murmured his good nights and headed for the door.

It was rude of him, but he really didn't care at this point. He did stupid things when he was drunk. Surrounded by people he actually liked, with the object of some of his worse dreams across from him, he needed to get away. The cool night air seemed to wake up his mind a little bit, and he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and blew smoke. The door chimed behind him and a tall, lanky form collided into his, long arms draping over his shoulders.

"You can't leave."

Michihiro rolled his eyes and jabbed his elbow back even as he stepped out of the loose embrace. Ito coughed harshly, his hands on his stomach and his flushed features looking purple under the fall of his bright hair. Michihiro raised an eyebrow, almost expecting him to lose it all right there and unsure whether he felt regret or some kind of perverse enjoyment on seeing him hurt. But Ito regained his breath and stood up, rubbing his stomach slowly and frowning.

"Why do you always have to hit me?"

"Why do you always have to touch me like one of your guitars?"

Ito's mouth dropped open. Michihiro snickered at his expression, hiding it badly behind his cigarette. Ito's nose scrunched up and he bit his lower lip. Michihiro covered his yawn with his hand, managing to keep his cigarette in place. Ito was the first to break into laughter, little hysterical hiccups that grew in volume. Michihiro chuckled softly and tapped his arm in a much more subdued manner.

"How's your stomach?"

"It's been better," Ito replied, wiping the tears from his eyes. "At least I'm not going to throw up."

"It's no fun, at least not on a public street."

"Yeah? I wouldn't say I had the pleasure to find out," Ito said, grinning at him.

The door chimed out behind them and the rest of his band came out, blinking like lizards that had just discovered daylight. Baba weaved between the two of them, smiling up at Michihiro. He took a step back and ran a hand through his hair, trying hard not to look at either guitarist.

"We were thinking about going to a karaoke bar," Baba was saying.

Michihiro arched his right eyebrow and glanced at the rest of his band. He liked karaoke bars in general, so long as other people sang, but tonight he felt too heavy, too worn to take much pleasure in listening to other singers. He just wanted to go home, make sure Rhapsody was tucked in bed and find his own bed. He opened his mouth to say exactly that when his space was invaded by Ito again, the lean body feeling so good and so right against his. It froze all thoughts in his mind save one that he really did not want to think about.

"I think I need to be taken home," Ito said, hands waving vaguely in front of Michihiro's eyes. "Rin-chan can drive me, right?"

"We could call you a cab," Baba said. Michihiro looked over at him and wiggled out from under Ito's weight.

"It's fine. I'm worn out too."

"Are you sure?" Baba took a step towards Michirhio. The singer shook his head and tugged the heavy keychain from Ito's pocket.

"I'm sure. Have fun and take some pictures for me."

He was being cruel and he knew it. Over the past five years he had used Baba as a sort of crutch – talking to him about his problems, drinking with him, hanging out when the loneliness in his head got too much. Baba probably figured that it gave him extra rights and in a way Michihiro let him think that. But he was leading Baba on in letting him think that there was more. Michihiro had only room for one person in his life and – despite the other relationships he had stormed his way through – that person remained there.

The rest of the band drew Baba away. Michihiro fingered the small charms in the shape of Ito's dogs, listening until he couldn't hear them before poking Ito in the ribs. Hard. He jumped and looked up.

"They're gone?"

"Yes," Michihiro said, biting off the word he wanted to use. He rattled Ito's keys and tilted his head to the side. "You can stop acting like an idiot and go home."

"I don't want to go home."

That particular tone made Michihiro's mouth twist. He didn't want to deal with this. He really didn't want to, so why couldn't he pull away?

"Ito. . ."

"Michi."

He looked up, caught again by the seriousness in his voice and seeing the glitter of gold flecks, the soft subtle rainbow caught in the bright fall of orange hair. He wanted to close his eyes and block it all out, but he felt so heavy, so tired, and this was something he wanted for years. Dreamt of. Thought of. Hungered. Needed.

"I can't. . ."

Ito closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He reached over, stealing the cigarette half-forgotten from Michihiro and took a drag from it. The flare of the cherry illuminated his face, the glistening lines, hollowing dark eyes. Michihiro choked and took a deep breath, blinking his eyes rapidly as he looked down. Long calloused fingers closed around his hand holding Ito's keys, the thumb stroking over his knuckles.

"You can."

"You hurt me." So few words choking past the block in his throat, the rainbows shattering into tiny motes.

"You left first."

"You know why." It was too much, too much and the heaviness seemed to fill his mind as well and Michihiro wanted to pull away and move closer but all he could do was stand there, his hand held in that loose grip that still felt like steel.

"I do."

"Then why. . ?"

"Michi, do you really think I could forget you?"

He did look up, feeling miles away inside too tight skin, seeing the emotions hidden deep in his eyes. His fingers twitched in their prison and his breath caught before he looked down, taking a deep breath. It was his choice, wasn't it? To forgive and either let go or embrace. Ito would not force him to choose, and that was why he nodded and met his eyes.

"Let's go home."

Chapter Text

Ito's mouth. Ito's body. Ito's hands. Michihiro was drowning in the sound and feel of him, the press of his door against his back drowned out by Ito's taste and heat. He grabbed bright orange hair and pressed tightly against him, his gasp lost somewhere behind Ito's tonsils. Thought was long gone, even as he took a deep breath and tried to pull out his keys while still clinging to Ito. Finally he cursed and turned, pulling away in order to work the mysteries of the lock and his alarm.

Ito did not help his fingers. The moment he turned to work on the door and the alarm, the guitarist was pressing against him, mouthing the nape of his neck while his hands roamed across his chest and down his sides. Michihiro bit back a shaky moan, his free hand grabbing at Ito's hair in an attempt to pull him away, but then his mouth found that spot between shoulder and neck and all he could is hang on, back arching and mind blank. Somehow, he managed to turn the alarm off, somehow the door closed behind them and they half stumbled over each other's feet to land against the wall. He found his mouth again, and he taste the sesame seed and vinegar sauce Ito had dipped his food with.

A sharp yip broke them apart for a moment, and Michihiro used it to toe off his shoes and let his keys and jacket drop to the floor. Ito was watching, his eyes bright, brighter than his hair, his tongue touching his lower lip. Michihiro pulled his shirt off and gave it a toss, the muffled yip and patter of feet told him that Rhapsody had gotten hit by it but Ito was on him again, and the thought fled.

He was going to have bruises he thought, feeling fingers and nails dig into his sides. He hooked a leg over Ito's hip and twisted, Ito stumbling against the wall this time, knocking something off the shelf above their heads and hitting the floor with a dull thud. The guitarist laughed at his frustrate growl at the layers he wore, tugging to get his fingers under them to feel skin. He tore at the clothing and felt cloth give away, baring pale skin.

"Hey! I liked that shirt."

"Cheap shirt," Michihiro muttered and nipped at the curve of his collar bone.

Ito sucked in his breath. "Okay. Yeah, okay."

He hooked his arm around Ito's neck and dragged his mouth down even as he rolled his hips. The shocked gasp was muffled against the slide of their tongues and lips, and he had both legs around him, his weight supported by Ito's arms. He pulled his mouth away, throwing his head back and felt the warmth of his breath against his chest, the flick of Ito's tongue against one hard nipple. Feeling something spin inside his head, he closed his eyes and tightened his hold.

"Bed?" Warmth teased his skin, followed by a flick of a wet tongue.

"That way."

After a hesitant step in the wrong direction, Michihiro dropped back to the floor, hooked his fingers in the loops of his jeans and tugged him the right direction. He had a brief thought about how small the futon was for two people their height before the back of his legs hit it and he fell back, Ito landing on top of him. There was a brief moment of shifting, of pulling himself up higher and Ito settling his weight better, then they were kissing again, long, slow and deep, fingers stroking skin and tugging on hair. Ito shifted to his elbows, moving up and he gasped, clutching his sides and dragging blunt nails across his skin.

"Where. . ?"

He let go long enough to wave at a nearby table, then snagged Ito's hair when he made to move. Ito grunted in response, shifting again and Michihiro arched up against him. A soft hiss, and they were moving together, heat and friction that made him bite his lips to hold back a moan. It wasn't enough, not yet. He let go and twisted, all but pushing Ito off and into the corner of the futon and sat up.

"Bossy, bossy," Ito muttered, flopping on his stomach and stretching out to open the small drawer and fish around. Michihiro watched the way his back moved, the way his jeans slid down and tore his gaze away. A cluck of a plastic tube hitting wood brought him back, and the expression on Ito's face caused him to snicker and sit up on his knees.

"What the hell is this?"

"American," he replied. Ito looked at him and Michihiro ran his hands down his chest, his mouth twisting at the way he stared, his grin widening more at the hitch in his breath and the pulse of the vein in his neck. He unsnapped his top button and raised an eyebrow. "Can't you read English?"

Ito wasn't looking at the tube. His eyes were fixed on his hands, on watching him unbutton his pants and then Michihiro decided to step up the pace. Instead of a slow tease he had thought about doing, he leaned back and stretched, raising his legs and bending himself in half, his feet touching the wall. Then a simple push, a wiggle, and the pants were on the floor. He rolled back to his knees and blinked at the expression on Ito's face. Shaking his head, he took the lube from him.

"Idiot."

"Uh."

"Did I break your mind?"

Ito swallowed, his eyes wide. Michihiro uncapped the lube, filling the air with vanilla, watching out of the corner of his eyes as Ito shook his head and stripped. His pants went flying and he pounced, wrestling for the tube before Michihiro let go and stretched out under him, eyes lidded and his mouth curving. Ito's eyes narrowed and he bent down, biting at the taunt skin stretched across his collar bone. Michihiro grabbed his hair and tugged.

"No marks."

"Too late," Ito said, his voice rough and his tongue swiping over that spot.

Probably, he would have said but his mind was gone as skin slid against skin and Ito's mouth found his. His fingers dug into his shoulders and he felt the pound of blood in his veins, the sharp tear at the first press against him, in him, and he bit down hard to muffle his curse. He dug his heels and moved up, accepting his length as Ito pressed deep in one smooth thrust, accepting the sharp pulse of pain as it faded and mutated and spread. Ito trembled, his breathing harsh and his hair plastered against the side of his face. Michihiro licked a trail of sweat from along his jaw, whimpering softly as he pulled out and slid back in, filling him again. Ito gasped, and Michihiro sucked in his breath, hooking his legs around his waist.

He was losing all thoughts, his mind wonderfully blank and his body in motion, filled and moving and clinging. Ito shifted with him, sometimes nipping, sometimes stroking, blunt nails moving over his sides and digging into his hips. His eyes closed and a light show was behind them, building and throbbing with the taste of sweat and aftershave on his lips. He dug his fingers deep into Ito's back and he moaned. He arched against the body pressing into him, losing all sense of rhythm, feeling the hitch in the chest against his, the stuttering words against his neck, and arched a final time.

Gulping air, he grabbed once bright orange hair and dragged Ito's mouth to his. They were both breathing hard so it wasn't really a kiss, but Michihiro didn't care, not in the hazy slow motion aftermath. Ito pulled away with a groan, rubbing his cheek against his shoulder, his fingers rubbing slow circles against his sides. Michihiro knew that they were a huge mess, and that there will be pain and a lot of it once the haze faded, but he was content to lay there with Ito's weight pressing him into the futon. He stroked orange hair and was amused at how readily it spiked even without the help of hairspray. Against his shoulder, Ito shakily laughed.

"I should kick you out," Michihiro said, continuing to try to style his hair.

"I don't know if I can walk," was the muffled reply.

"Too bad." Gathering enough energy, he twisted and managed to dump Ito over the side of the futon. Ignoring the sputtered protests, he stretched and fingered a bruise on his collarbone. "Now I have to dress up tomorrow."

Ito sat up and ruffled his hair, sweat making it spike all over the place like a clown's wig. "So? I like it when you dress up."

Michihiro leaned over and kissed him on the corner of his mouth before getting up and headed for the bathroom. A quick clean up and he was back in the bedroom, rescuing his cigarettes from his pants and lighting up. Ito had already straightened the bed and was laying on top, stretched out in a way that took up most of the room. Shrugging, he set pack and lighter on the table and then crawled back to bed, straddling him. Ito squeaked and Michihiro smiled around his smoke and shifted his weight, Ito's hands grabbing and stilling him from moving away.

"Why do I get the feeling that we're not getting sleep?" he asked, watching Michihiro blow a smoke ring.

"Oh, I don't know," Michihiro replied, bending down and holding his cigarette out for Ito to take a drag.

"You're a tease," Ito replied, ignoring the cigarette in favor of grabbing his hair and tugging him down for a kiss.

"What else is new?" he murmured against his lips. He reached over to rest the cigarette in the ashtray and wrapped his hands around the edge of Ito's face. He brushed his lips feather light over his nose and shifted his weight, hearing him suck in his breath. "But you know I always pay up in the end."

"Yeah," was the lazy response, long fingers sliding up his back. Michihiro smiled and kissed him back. This was far better than getting stuck with the band in some bar most of the night, even if Ito was trying to drive him nuts by flipping them over. Growling a little, he grabbed the sheets on either side of his head and rocked hard. Ito stopped and he grin, nipping at his lips.

"Bossy," he muttered and Michihiro pressed his mouth against his, losing himself again. He missed this and he wasn't willing to let it go, especially for the night. If anything else happens, he'll deal with that later on.

Chapter Text

"Kuroda-san, Kuroda-san, whatever shall I do with you?"

Michihiro kept still, trying hard not to fidget as the two make-up assistants went over a set of finger-sized bruises along one hip. He heard the master stylist click her teeth together and he ventured cracking an eye open just enough to see her disapproving frown. He closed his eye and sucked in his breath as someone swept a brush over his ribs.

Waking up had been pleasant enough, although the awkwardness of sharing his small bathroom with the overly tall Ito had been a strange change from his normal routine. Sharing the morning miso also had been odd, Ito's commentary on the news show adding a hint of the surreal to what was usually a quiet morning playing with Rhapsody. He hadn't had the time to think it over, to let it soak into his skin and make it's way home when the phone rang with Julia on the other end asking if he remembered their photography session for that day. He had to hurry through a quick breakfast and a quick walk with Rhapsody before flying to the studio to meet up with the photographer.

And then he remembered exactly why he had been willing to cancel the shoot when she told him to strip.

But the label had went through a lot of trouble to get the English-born photographer and her crew to work with him, so he couldn't let them down. He had at least to be thankful that all they needed was to cover the bruising and scrapes and did not need to draw on muscle definition or hide other skin conditions like acme or heavy scarring. He also was glad that his gymnastic background made him ignore his stiff muscles, otherwise he would have a hard time even moving, let alone work some of the poses he knew was going to be part of this shoot.

"I never expected you to show up in such a state," Julia was saying. Michirhiro opened his eyes a crack, seeing her bend over her camera and fiddle with something. A hissing comment had him closing his eyes and holding his breath as a stylist applied make-up to his face.

"I forgot," he said once it was safe to speak. A stylist popped up and he had to look up while they applied eyeliner. "First day celebrations."

"At least you didn't come in with a broken arm."

"Uh. Not that reckless."

"Kuroda-san! Hold still."

He froze and waited until the artists moved on from his face to the bite marks along his collar bone. One more pat of a cotton ball and he was as ready as he would ever be. Julia said something in English – too quick and with her accent he did not get it all – and then started directing the poses. With a sigh, he blanked his mind, moving the way she asked, directing glances at the camera that were half-shy, half-wanting, and tried not to think about anything, especially about being naked in a room of women.

Thankfully the session wasn't too long. After about two hours, he was shooed off to clean the make-up off and get dressed. Another twenty minutes to look at the shots and discuss with her how they were going to be processed, and he headed back for the studio. He hoped that nothing had occurred between Baba and Ito without him there. He almost expected to see flames shooting out of the windows, but everything was quiet. Too quiet.

Michihiro walked into the studio slowly, peeking around corners, and nearly scaring a staff member. Deciding that he was being ridiculous, he stopped it and headed straight for the conference room. Most of the band was gone, Okuda and Konnno were the only two sitting in the room, scratching away at realms of paper. Michihiro put his bag down and picked up a pile of paper and stared at the familiar scrawl and a quick sketch of Iggy.

"Baba kidnapped all the guitarists and they went into the recording studio, Kuroda-san," Okuda said, jumping to his feet.

"Oh?"

"You know guitarists." He shrugged and sat down, drawing a few notes on the bars in front of him. "Ito-san's guitar sparked some kind of competition."

Michihiro dropped the papers and rushed out of the room. It took him a minute to get to the recording booths where he found Nagai and Katsuragi sitting alone sharing a smoke. Michihiro peered around but he saw no sign of Baba or Ito. They hadn't gone far though since both guitarists left their instruments behind. Ignoring Katsuragi's hello, he left the room and started checking all the rooms.

He vaguely realized that he had interrupted a couple other bands in practice when he finally found the two missing guitarists. They were behind the studio, Ito wiping blood off his chin and Baba poking his fingers through a hole in his shirt. At Michihiro's appearance, Ito jumped to his feet and ran inside but Baba stayed where he was laying and looked up at him.

"Baba," Michihiro started to say but the guitarist cut him off.

"I was only reminding him to treat you right."

Michihiro blinked and squatted down. "Why?"

Baba frowned and stretched out. "You were a wreck when we first met. Yeah, you got better but everyone knew that you had a hard time after leaving them. And you talk when your drunk – no, not enough for people to know exactly who you're talking about but enough. Everyone heard about your photo shoot, and I put the pieces together."

"And then you hit Ito?" Michihiro's head was starting to throb, but he managed to keep his voice calm.

Baba laughed. "Nah. We started pushing each other but his ring got caught in my shirt and then my head ran into his chin and he bit his tongue. We weren't fighting, not really."

He closed his eyes. "Baba. . ."

"You're my friend, Rin. I don't want to see him hurt you any more."

"He won't."

Baba looked at him for a long moment before nodding and standing up. He brushed off the dirt from his rear and ran a hand through his hair. Michihiro stood up as well and walked with him to the door. Baba stopped and reached out to lightly smack him on the arm.

"But next time you show up with that many bruises, I get to smack him on the head."

"I think you will have to wait in line," Michihiro replied with a grin and stepped inside the building.

There was only one place where Ito could be hiding. After checking two other rest rooms, found him cleaning up in one closest to the recording studio. He stepped inside, closing the door behind him and making sure to lock the door. Michihiro wanted to check on Ito and also get his side of the story. While he trusted Baba would not lie to him about important things, he still just wanted to make absolutely sure that the two guitarists would not jump each other each time he left them alone. After all, there will be other opportunities where they would have to work alone, or do something while Michihiro was taking time for his fans or making other obligations for the label.

Ito did not notice him since he was too busy with cleaning out the blood spots from his shirt. He had stopped bleeding although he did have a large piece of tissue stuck up his left nostril that just made Michihiro think of smoking the wrong way. At his snicker, Ito looked up and met his gaze in the mirror.

"Uh," Ito said, blinking like a struck lemming.

"Did you walk into Baba's fist or his head?" Michihiro asked, the corner of his mouth quirking up.

Ito snorted and tugged the tissue free. "Both."

"Both," Michihiro replied, leaning back against the door, watching Ito splash water on his face.

"First time, he stopped in front of me and I ran into him and then he slugged me," he said, grabbing a towel and drying off. "I didn't even get a real hit in – man, he must wear baggy clothes for that reason or something."

"Were you fighting about me?"

Ito sighed and nodded, tossing the towel aside and turning around. "Are you going to yell about it?"

"Come here."

He took a deep breath and slowly walked over to Michihiro. Clicking his tongue, he reached up and lightly whacked him on top of the head. He then cupped Ito's face between his hands and kissed to tip of his over-sized and bruised nose.

"Idiot," he said softly.

Ito smiled in response, leaning down to kiss him lightly. "Your friend is really protective of you."

"I know," Michihiro said, letting go of his face and resting his head against his chest. After all the activity and the worry, he just wanted to feel Ito breathing against him and feel his arms around him.

He felt him laugh but didn't move, rubbing his face against his damp shirt, smelling smoke and sweat and soap. Sense came to him after a moment or two and he pulled away slowly, looking up at Ito through the fall of his hair and saw an honest smile on his face. Michihiro felt heat rush to his cheeks and he pulled away entirely, clearing his throat and patting down his pockets for his cigarettes.

"So I guess we're staying to finish this session?"

He inhaled and and shrugged. "I thought you were having a sound off with your guitar."

Ito smacked himself in the forehead. "Oh! That's what we were doing! Okay, wanna watch?"

"Only to make sure you won't get cocky."

"Me?"

"Yes. You."

Ito raised his eyebrows and snorted, shaking his head. He leaned over Michihiro, resting his hands on his shoulders. "How about a good luck kiss?"

"How about wait until we go home?"

"But then it won't be a good luck kiss."

Michihiro turned to leave, looking over his shoulder at Ito. "I know."

Ito blinked and then his cheeks turned red as a smile spread across his face. Laughing, he caught the door before Michihiro could close it behind him and followed him out. They headed back to the studio where the rest of the band was stretched out on various chairs, Baba and Katsuragi inside the booth, trying to out-do each other with wailing guitars. Nagai clapped his hands and nodded at the two guitar players.

"I think they're going for the world's worst chord progression," he said. "It enough to make me feel like stabbing my ears out."

Michihiro glanced over at Ito who just picked up his Glimmer Monkey and was petting the strings like he was soothing a rather grumpy cat. "Is that all they're doing?"

"Who knows? They are just hitting strings from what I can tell."

Ito ran his fingers over his guitar strings, making a quiet hum of sound. Michihiro grabbed an empty chair and took a seat. Ito knocked on the booth's door, peeked in and said something quickly. Next thing all three guitarists were in the room, the noise muted by dialing down the overhead speakers. Michihiro leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the table, watching Ito jam and joke around. Then giving a shake of his head, he picked up a handful of notes from the pile next to him.

"What kind of noise are you thinking on laying out for this song?" he asked Nagai. The keyboardist blinked and then took out his notes. Bending over the two sets of notes, he kept an ear on the contest, knowing that whether he lost or won, Ito would still claim he was the best and would love to hear Michihiro's review of his performance.

And maybe he would give it to him. With an idea in mind as to how he would do so, he went to work.