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Untold

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“You want to listen to my song? Then I’ll sing as thanks for the delicious cake. Sing with me. My song… Zero’s song. Let’s sing it together. 

“...is what he said to me when I met him. Zero was so cool!” Mitsuki exclaimed, recalling the first and last time he’d spoken to Zero all those years ago. 

The group was gathered in the office – it'd been a few weeks since their win at Black or White, and Tsumugi apparently had an important announcement to make. Right now, the beta was at her desk, finalising the details of whatever it was that she needed to tell them, and the members of IDOLiSH7 were waiting in the meeting room while discussing the legendary idol. 

“That’s nice,” Riku said, an envious smile on his face. “I’ve only seen him on TV.” 

“I’ve heard his name before,” Tamaki commented, leaning against Sougo while eating his third cup of King Pudding that morning. Sougo had tried to stop him, as he usually did, but there wasn’t much he could do to come between the alpha and his favourite snack. “Is he really that amazing?” 

Iori sighed, shaking his head at his classmate’s ignorance. He was surprised Sougo hadn’t told Tamaki about Zero before, although he did suppose MEZZO didn’t have much time to rest. It wasn’t as if Tamaki was particularly interested in learning more about the idol industry, anyway. 

“Well, he was the one who started the current idol boom,” Iori said, reciting the facts as if he was reading them off a book. “Although Zero was only active for a short 3 years, all of the businesses affiliated with Zero have been growing by 20% yearly. It is said that he increased the worldwide economy by 100 billion yen up until his final year, when he disappeared.” 

Tamaki’s eyes widened; numbers made it a lot easier to understand just how much of an impact Zero had made with his music. “Whoa, that’s amazing!” 

Yamato hummed, leaning back against the couch. “Even though he was earning well, why did he disappear at the height of his popularity?” he asked no one in particular. It was a question that had been asked multiple times over the years: why did Zero disappear? 

He'd had so many fans supporting him, always selling out concerts even out of Japan, and yet he’d vanished without so much as a word. “Zero’s songwriter, Sakura Haruki-san, ended up in Nagi’s country during his search for Zero, if I recall correctly?” Sougo asked, looking at the blond. 

It was a revelation that Nagi had only made known a couple of months ago, when they’d been discussing how to gain Otoharu’s forgiveness for losing sight of their goal. Mitsuki had been beyond shocked that his boyfriend knew Zero’s composer, of all people, still was shocked by the fact. But he also genuinely hoped that Nagi could get over the loss of his dear friend, probably one of the first true friends he had. 

Yes! And at that time, Haruki entrusted me with the songs that he had written for Zero.” 

Mitsuki looked over at his boyfriend. He didn’t prod into Nagi’s past often, knowing that the topic of Haruki brought up less than happy emotions in the alpha. “Hey, Nagi! Did he happen to say anything about what Zero’s like? Sakura Haruki-san was a close friend of yours, wasn’t he?” 

Nagi nodded, a soft smile on his face as he recalled Haruki’s exact words. “He told me that Zero’s songs are magic – it’s as if he were a magician casting joy upon his listeners,” he said. Haruki had always seemed so happy whenever he talked about Zero and his singing; it’d been obvious that Haruki loved Zero, loved being the composer of his music. 

“A magician, huh… Ah, I really want to meet him again!” 

“Speaking of Zero,” Iori chimed in, “it seems they’re opening Zero Arena.” 

The members of IDOLiSH7 were more than familiar with Zero Arena, having been there multiple times before. It was where they’d gone after their failure at Music Festa, where they’d gone to when Otoharu had announced their disbandment a few months ago. It was the place where they’d rediscovered their goal as idols. “There will most likely be an extravagant kokera-otoshi for the renewal.” 

Tamaki’s eyes widened in surprise. “Kokera-otoshi? Is it like daruma-otoshi? Are they going to smash it with a hammer, even though they just rebuilt it?” he asked, shock and confusion lacing his voice. 

Sougo hid a chuckle behind his hand, but Tamaki heard it anyway, and the alpha turned to look at his boyfriend with a frown. “Don’t be mean, Souchan. Are they really planning to do that?” 

Iori sighed. “Of course not, there’s nothing to be gained from that.” 

Kokera-otoshi refers to the first public performance done at a newly built theatre,” Sougo explained. Tamaki stared at him blankly, clearly still not quite understanding the meaning of the word, and Sougo continued, “It garners a lot of media attention and gathers a lot of people, so the big players in every industry are called forth. I’m sure there’ll be top stars from the idol industry, befitting of Zero, performing at the grand opening.” 

The door clicked open suddenly, and the seven idols looked up as their manager entered the meeting room. “I’m back...” she called out, face hidden from view as she kept her gaze trained on the ground. 

“Welcome back, Manager. You met up with that TV station today... wait, are you crying!?” Riku exclaimed, noticing the tears gathered in Tsumugi’s eyes and beginning to freak out. He turned to look at Iori with wide eyes, silently asking for help. Riku’d never been good at dealing with crying girls. 

“What happened!?” Iori demanded. It was difficult to discern the reason for Tsumugi’s tears – her being a beta meant that they couldn’t identify the cause from her scent. It could’ve been from sadness, anger, joy, or anything at all. 

One thing was for sure though. If anyone had bullied their manager to the point of tears, there was absolutely no way that the members of IDOLiSH7 were going to let it slide. 

“I...” Tsumugi started, her voice thick with tears. The mood in the room was tense; everyone shared the same sentiments as Iori. “I have... a very, very important announcement for everyone!” 

“Announcement...?” Riku echoed unsurely. This sounds serious. 

Tsumugi nodded, sniffling and wiping at her eyes. “I just want to thank you all... for letting me be IDOLiSH7’s manager...” she mumbled. 

Everyone stiffened at her words. 

This lead-up, could it be she’s quitting as our manager? Iori thought. Is it because of that one time I scolded her for even longer since her despondent expression was just too cute!? 

Did a complaint come in because I was practicing our dance at my drama’s set?  

Is it because I got carried away and went drinking with those super famous band dudes after filming!?  

I was eating King Pudding in class… Did my teacher tattle on me or something?  

Even though she told me to consult her on anything, perhaps I rearranged MEZZO’s schedule a little too much?  

OH… I got really excited and took a commemorative photo with those fangirls… Maybe there’s an issue with that?  

Is it because I had dance practice late into the night even though she told me to take it easy!?  

“No way,” Riku said, shock lacing his voice, asking the question that they’d all been too afraid to say aloud. “Are you quitting!?” 

The beta shook her head furiously, and a shaky smile now adorned her features. “That’s not it,” she assured, and they all heaved similar sighs of relief. “At last, I can finally return the favour with this new job I’ve picked up for you guys! IDOLiSH7 is finally getting their own show!” 

Their eyes went wide, for a completely different reason this time, and Riku threw his arms around Iori in celebration. Iori was too stunned by the news to even react, simply letting Riku squeeze him in his excitement. 

The happiness radiating off Riku was contagious, and soon Iori found himself smiling as well. A glance to the side revealed that Sougo appeared to be in the same situation, with Tamaki gripping the elder omega’s shoulders and shaking him back and forth. 

“Hooray!” 

 

--- 

 

Banri beamed at the members of IDOLiSH7. “Congratulations on getting your own show, everyone!” 

From the seat beside him, Otoharu nodded. “Congrats! You’ve all worked so hard.” 

“Yes!” Tsumugi agreed, her tears finally having stopped, at least momentarily. 

They were in Otoharu’s office now, having been called over by the company’s president just a few minutes after Tsumugi broke the news to them. It still seemed surreal that they were finally getting their own show – they'd nearly had the chance half a year ago, but it’d been axed by their sponsors. 

Sougo still felt terrible about that, even now. The members had repeatedly told him not to worry about it, that it hadn’t been his fault, but it didn’t change the fact that it was because of him that FSC had pulled out from their sponsorship. After all, Sougo was certain his father still didn’t approve of him being an idol, even after they’d won a title as grand as Black or White’s Male Idol Award. “Manager, about the sponsors...” Sougo trailed off, knowing that they’d understand what he was referring to. 

Expectedly, Tsumugi caught on immediately, as did Tamaki. The alpha huffed in annoyance, nudging Sougo in the side. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he was beating himself up over what had happened the past again. “Don’t worry about it! The sponsors are predominantly IT companies, so they have little or no ties to the business sector,” the beta assured. 

Sougo heaved a small sigh of relief, managing a smile. “That’s good to hear,” he said, and Tamaki nudged him again, clearly still annoyed. Sougo grumbled indignantly, glancing up at his partner with a frown, and Tamaki simply pursed his lips. “We can finally put this issue to rest and continue on without any more trouble from my end. Stop that, Tamaki-kun.” 

“It’s because you’re thinking of unnecessary things,” Tamaki muttered. 

Yamato let out a chuckle. “Tama’s just worried. It’s all because you did your best. You’ve come so far, we all have, that not even your father can interfere anymore, since both MEZZO and IDOLiSH7 are pretty well-known now,” he said. 

“Thank you, Yamato-san.” 

“Is getting our own show, like, a really big thing?” Tamaki asked. Sougo raised an incredulous brow at his boyfriend, and Tamaki did so as well. “What? I’m just asking.” 

“It is, it is!” Mitsuki replied excitedly. “We’re getting a show that features our name right up top, kind of like Mister Shimooka’s The TV Man Show!” 

“Whoa.” 

“And part of the reason why you’re getting your own show is because of Mitsuki-kun’s hard work on The TV Man Show,” Otoharu supplied helpfully. 

Mitsuki pointed at himself. “H-huh? Me?” 

“Remember how Mister Shimooka came down with the flu just a little before the end of the year, and had to take a break from the show?” Banri reminded. “That one time where you all filmed without Mister Shimooka.” 

It'd been between Douglas Rootbank’s Christmas concert and Black or White. That entire month had been incredibly busy, so it hadn’t been all that shocking when Shimooka called in sick. The veteran emcee hardly ever missed any filmings, much less one for his own show which happened to be broadcasted live, but they’d had to carry on anyway. 

“A lot of people in the variety show industry praised Izumi Mitsuki-kun’s performance! Especially his ability to talk non-stop and keep the conversation going,” Banri added. “You’ve really done well.” 

Tears began to well up in Mitsuki’s eyes, even as Yamato continued, “Definitely. Mitsu really saved us that time. He connected each and every conversation thread, and changed topics smoothly too. Mitsu’s always doing this for us, though.” 

Riku nodded furiously in agreement, eliciting a small smile from the omega standing beside him. What a cute person. “Like during the Emcee Corner’s for live performances! He keeps everyone together, and always gets everyone pumped up!” 

“I... I don’t do anything special, though.” 

“That’s what you think, but it’s an incredibly valuable talent in the eyes of people in the TV business!” Otoharu corrected, a pleased smile on his face. 

Mitsuki swallowed past the lump of his throat, and when he blinked, he felt the first tear trail down his cheek. “Ah...” 

Of course, Otoharu wasn’t done speaking just yet. “Thank you, Mitsuki-kun. It’s because of that very talent of yours that we’ve secured a show for IDOLiSH7.” 

“Because of... me...?” Mitsuki asked, again, still in disbelief. His voice was barely louder than a whisper, and he wiped hastily at his eyes. He wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all Nagi and Iori, both of whom were looking at him with a smile. 

“It’s incredible, nii-san! People in the industry are finally recognizing your talent, just from watching your work!” Iori said excitedly. Mitsuki was always overlooked, in the past and even now. Sure, he wasn’t exceptionally good at dancing like Tamaki, neither was he exceptionally good at singing like Riku. He wasn’t handsome like Nagi, or a good actor like Yamato. But Mitsuki’s charm had always been in how he managed to bring out the best reactions from the rest of the group, and now he was finally being acknowledged for it. 

“I love Mitsuki’s stories!” Nagi exclaimed. He'd seen Mitsuki beat himself up one too many times, for not being as popular as the other members. He knew Mitsuki still felt inferior to Iori, knew that it would probably always be like this, but Nagi had always admired how hardworking his boyfriend was. And now, that hard work was finally coming to fruition. “Your voice, the way you speak – you make everyone smile and cheer everyone up! Mitsuki, very, very thank you!” 

“We knew you could do it, Mitsuki-san!” 

“I’m really glad Mikki’s here!” 

“Thank you, Mitsuki!” 

Mitsuki laughed, wiping at his eyes once more. “You dumbasses… Now, don’t flatter me... I couldn’t have done all of this by myself…” he mumbled. “I’m going to head to the restroom for a bit, okay?” 

Without waiting for anyone to reply, the beta left the room, slamming the door shut and heading to the restroom just next door. Sougo stared at the closed door, waiting until he heard the restroom door close before speaking. “I thought he’d be moved, but that was a pretty calm and collected response.” 

Yamato snorted, shaking his head while looking at Sougo in disbelief. He'd thought that by now Sougo would know how Mitsuki was like, but apparently, he’d thought wrong. “Nah. He's definitely crying in there right now.” 

Just as Yamato finished speaking, they heard Mitsuki exclaim from the restroom, “I did it! I... I did it...!” 

“See?” 

“M-Mitsuki-san,” Tsumugi sobbed, and the rest of the group looked at the manager to see that she was crying as well. “He’s worked so hard! I’m so, so happy...” 

“Crying out of empathy again, are we?” Iori asked with a chuckle. He glanced at Riku when he felt the alpha’s hand slip into his, leaning against Riku’s side and sighing happily. “Nii-san’s long-cherished dreams are finally coming true – the world is finally recognizing my brother’s talents.” 

“It’s the same for you kids. Each and every one of you is unique, and that uniqueness is valuable, splendid. The pros in the industry can see it too,” Otoharu told them. “That’s why, with its massive budget and the many people working behind it, this show is in your hands now. Thank you, for working your hardest all this time. I am truly grateful.” 

“Yes!” 

The president chuckled, glancing in the general direction of the restroom. It was silent for a fraction of a second, then the sound of Mitsuki’s crying travelled into the room. What started as muffled sobs soon grew into full-out bawling, and when Nagi made to go to his boyfriend, Yamato simply put a hand on his arm and shook his head. “Give him some time.” 

Pursing his lips, the blond nodded. They both knew that Mitsuki didn’t like to show his weakness to others, although Nagi did sometimes wish that Mitsuki would learn to rely on him more often. Still, Mitsuki was the older of the two, so it made sense that he felt like he had to be less reliant on Nagi. 

Otoharu stared at the closed door, brows set in a frown. “I kind of need to use the restroom...” 

Banri grimaced, offering the beta a pat on the back. “Please hold it in, President.” 

 

--- 

 

That night found Nagi knocking on Mitsuki’s door, cautiously pushing the door open when Mitsuki called out, “Who is it?” 

When the familiar head of blond hair poked through the gap in the door, Mitsuki chuckled. “Oh, Nagi. It's you,” he said from where he was sitting on his bed. “Did you need anything?” 

“Do I need a reason to come to my boyfriend’s room?” Nagi asked, shutting the door and walking over to sit beside Mitsuki. The beta’s eyes were still red from all the crying he’d done in the office restroom, and then again after dinner. 

The second time around, it’d been because Iori and Yamato had been discussing the potential things they could do during their show. They'd asked Mitsuki for suggestions on things they could do or say, even though they didn’t even know what the concept of the show was. “You’ll be the main emcee, after all. What do you think will make a show more interesting?” 

Mitsuki had heard only until main emcee, and then he’d managed a “Who knows? Excuse me for a bit” before disappearing into his room. About twenty minutes passed before Yamato suggested that Nagi check on Mitsuki, and Nagi would never reject any chance to spend alone time with his boyfriend. 

Sighing, Mitsuki let his body weight sag against the alpha’s side. “No, you don’t,” he conceded. Mitsuki didn’t think he would ever get used to Nagi referring to himself as his boyfriend, or vice versa. In fact, it was still bizarre when he thought about their group dynamics, about how they’d all ended up in relationships of their own. 

Granted, the two fated pairs getting together had only been a matter of time, although it’d been a good half a year since they’d established their respective relationships. Sometimes he still wondered how it was that he’d even ended up together with Nagi, as plain as he was in comparison to Nagi’s beauty. 

But, as always, Nagi would chide him for putting himself down. It was one of the only things that Nagi would get angry at him for – the alpha hardly ever got offended on his own behalf, but he was more than happy to get angry for Mitsuki’s sake. It'd been weird to get used to at first, since people seldom stood up for Mitsuki, but it was nice to have someone who he could count on to be on his side. 

“You know, Mitsuki,” Nagi started, the aforementioned beta glancing at his boyfriend, “you should give yourself more credit. I know it seems like you don’t shine as brightly as some of us on stage, but isn’t it because of you that we can shine like that?” 

“Huh?” 

“Think about it. If not for your emceeing, we wouldn’t be able to properly showcase the different aspects of our personalities on shows,” Nagi told him. “Sougo certainly wouldn’t speak as often without you directing questions to him, and sometimes Tamaki’s replies are easily misunderstood, but you rephrase it in a way that’s easy for the audience to understand.” 

“That’s normal, though, isn’t it?” Mitsuki asked, wrinkling his nose as he felt the tell-tale prick of tears at his eyes for the third time that day. He knew where Nagi was coming from, knew that the alpha’s points were valid, but it seemed like such a mundane thing that anyone could do. 

Nagi sighed, shaking his head while looking down at Mitsuki fondly. “I could never do that. It’s a good skill to have, to be able to control the flow of a conversation the way you do. Don’t ever think that you’re any less important than the rest of us, okay?” 

Why are you trying to make me cry again?” Mitsuki grumbled. 

Nagi only laughed, pulling Mitsuki so that now the beta’s face was buried in the front of his shirt. “Aww, don’t cry, Mitsuki! You know it hurts my heart to see you cry!” 

“You’re so dramatic,” Mitsuki couldn’t help but chuckle, shoving weakly against Nagi’s chest. Already he could feel his tears seeping into the material of the alpha’s shirt, and to some extent Mitsuki felt bad about dirtying his boyfriend’s shirt, but it wasn’t as if Nagi was going to loosen his hold on him any time soon. So, the beta muffled his sniffles in Nagi’s shirt, letting Nagi rub his back soothingly. 

“Don’t ever think any less of yourself,” Nagi said again. “All of us are important to IDOLiSH7.” 

Mitsuki nodded against Nagi’s chest. “Yeah. I know.” 

 

--- 

 

The remaining five members of IDOLiSH7 sat around the dining table. 

There was a sort of nervous excitement in the air, each of them anticipating the long-awaited first filming of their own show. They’d had a few guest appearances on other shows before, aside from being regular guests on Shimooka’s show, and were planning on using whatever experience they’d managed to accumulate to make their show a success. 

“Our own show, huh,” Yamato mused. “At long last.” 

“Sorry for making us go the long way around,” Sougo said, smiling sheepishly at the others. 

Tamaki rolled his eyes. “I told you to stop blaming yourself already. What’s it going to take to make you forget about that incident, anyway?” he questioned. “I like your normal scent better, so quit harping on what already happened.” 

Sougo pursed his lips indignantly – he couldn’t really tell what his scent was like now, but he supposed it wasn’t as sweet as it normally was. Still, he couldn’t help but feel responsible for FSC retracting sponsorship for their original show a few months back. No matter what Tamaki or the others said, he knew that he was at fault. “What do I smell like now?” 

“A little... bitter? Like burnt caramel,” Iori replied, sniffing the air experimentally. “Something like that.” 

“Exactly! It’s like when the caramel on pudding is overdone!” Tamaki agreed. 

Iori hummed thoughtfully. “Yotsuba-san’s right. You shouldn’t keep thinking about that incident.” 

“You’re being hypocritical, Iori,” Riku pointed out, taking a sip of his warm milk with honey, courtesy of none other than Iori himself. “Last I remember, you beat yourself up about Music Festa even until the day of our JIMA performance. Or have you forgotten?” 

“That’s-!” 

“-the exact same thing that Sougo-san feels,” Riku cut in, raising a brow at his boyfriend as if to dare him to say otherwise. Expectedly, Iori couldn’t retort, because they all knew that what Riku had said was the truth – Iori had blamed himself for their failure at Music Festa for several months, and Riku was fairly certain that he still felt that way now. 

Huffing slightly and turning away from Riku, Iori mumbled, “You really have no delicacy, do you?” 

“Okay, the two of you, stop fighting,” Yamato cut in, eyeing the other couple in the room. “Same goes for Sou and Tama. I know you’re all just worried about each other and are bad at expressing it, but please remain civil with each other.” 

“You say that like we’re going to get into a fist fight,” Tamaki commented. “I wouldn’t ever hit Souchan, even if he pisses me off sometimes.” 

Yamato sighed. “Just five minutes ago you were getting along. Didn't you all go on a date recently?” 

“What does that have to do with anything?” Iori asked incredulously. 

It was true that their common off day had been just a few days prior, and they’d all gone out with their respective boyfriends for the day. Tamaki had gone to the orphanage with Sougo to visit the kids, Iori had gone to Riku’s house to visit his parents, and Nagi had made lunch for Mitsuki while the beta had been working at Fonte Chocolat. Even Yamato had gone out with Tsumugi, and apparently had run into Tenn while they’d been having lunch. 

Iori knew he was being unreasonably annoyed, because Riku’s lack of delicacy was something that he should be used to by now. But maybe it was because Riku had been so incredibly excited during their RabiChat session with TRIGGER two days back, and it ticked Iori off that Riku was still hoping for Tenn to come back to their family. 

He wasn’t jealous, per se. Or, at least, he hoped he wasn’t. He just didn’t want to see Riku build his hopes up only to get them crushed by Tenn again, because he knew that Tenn valued professionalism over his familial ties. Sure, things seemed to be going fine between the two centres, but there was no way to guarantee that Tenn wouldn’t suddenly be cold to Riku again. 

If at all possible, Iori wanted to avoid that situation, but he couldn’t change how Riku felt about his brother, so he might have been a little frustrated at the alpha’s naivety. 

He wasn’t entirely sure what had gone on between Tamaki and Sougo, though. The relationship between the members of MEZZO had seemed smooth-sailing, but he supposed Sougo wouldn’t voice aloud any of their problems anyway. For all he knew, it could’ve been something as petty as Tamaki giving Ryuu a nickname and using it multiple times during the course of their RabiChat session. It didn’t seem too far-fetched, given that it was Tamaki and Sougo after all. 

The leader sighed again. “Usually, people don’t pick a fight with their boyfriend mere days after a nice day out together, but what do I know? I’m as single as I could possibly be. Anyway, let’s go to bed soon. Riku, make sure to keep yourself warm. Don't fall sick, you hear?” 

“Yeah, I got it,” Riku assured. He glanced at Iori, the omega still refusing to look in his direction, and sighed. He picked up his empty mug, rinsing it in the sink before heading back to his room. “Goodnight, then. See you guys tomorrow.” 

The four watched as Riku left the common area, and Yamato glanced at Iori. “Now isn’t the time to start a cold war with Riku, Ichi. You know better than I do that he’s going to worry about this, and we don’t want that to happen, do we? You two, go to bed already.” 

“Fine,” Tamaki huffed. He stood up, hesitated for a second, before dropping a quick kiss on Sougo’s cheek. “Night, Souchan. Night, Yamasan, Iorin.” 

When Iori and Yamato glanced at Sougo, the omega’s face was bright red. 

Yamato snickered. “See? Tama doesn’t mean any harm. He just doesn’t like when you brood.” 

“I know,” Sougo sighed, finally getting up, at the same time as Iori and Yamato. “Goodnight.” 

“Be more lenient with Riku,” Yamato told Iori, before entering his room and shutting the door. 

With a soft sigh, Iori trudged back to his own room. He passed by Riku’s room on the way there, and for a moment he contemplated going in to apologise for his moodiness. But Riku had been coughing the past few nights, and if he was asleep, then Iori didn’t want to disturb him. He needed all the rest he could get, which wasn’t a lot, nowadays. 

So, instead, the omega pushed his own room door open. “Goodnight, Nanase-san.” 

Chapter Text

“Alright! This is it, we either make it or break it here! Let’s meet it head on, with all our might!” Mitsuki exclaimed, determination present on his expression. “We’ve done all of this before, but we have to watch other shows and study how they talk and lead the emcee sections.” 

Yamato raised a brow at his fellow beta, chuckling slightly as he said, “Someone’s enthusiastic.” 

It was the day after they’d received the news of having their own show, and the group was once again gathered in the office, this time for their manager to brief them on what the programme would be like. They were mostly tired from a long day of schedules, but Banri had very kindly ordered food for them to eat while Tsumugi went through the details of their show. 

Nagi was glad to see that his pep talk of sorts had helped to boost Mitsuki’s confidence in himself, and the beta’d been praised during their filming earlier in the day as well. As he was now, Mitsuki was brimming with anticipation for the first filming of their show, although they still didn’t have a definite date for it yet. 

“Of course I am!” Mitsuki replied easily. “I mean, I’ve finally done something useful for everyone. I’m not great at singing, and I suck at dancing, and I’m short, and I can’t really act…” 

“M-Mitsuki...” Nagi trailed off. Maybe he’d been wrong in his interpretation of his boyfriend’s mood; it didn’t make sense for Mitsuki to still be putting himself down. 

“I’m fine, Nagi,” the beta assured. “Meeting Zero, looking up to him all these years, and finally making it to where I am today… It’s all thanks to you guys! You guys made me into an idol, and now I finally, finally have the chance to repay you all! There’s no way I wouldn’t be pumped up about this!” 

“What are you saying? We wouldn’t have made it this far without you, Mitsuki!” Riku beamed. He glanced to the side, noticing Iori’s approving smile, and inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. At least it seemed like Iori wasn’t mad at him anymore, though he didn’t even know what Iori had been mad at him about in the first place. 

Mitsuki laughed, waving Riku’s praise off. “Alright, that’s enough talking about my feelings!” he said, knowing fully well that if Riku and the others launched into another session of how they were thankful for Mitsuki’s existence, he would end up a blubbering mess again. 

Tsumugi cleared her throat to get their attention. “The name of the show has been decided: A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7! The members of IDOLiSH7 will be challenging various things, alongside amateurs!” she read off the slip of paper she held in her hands. “Here’s how the show will be formatted – you’ll record the actual challenge at the filming location, and then watch the video of it with the guests in the studio, all while talking!” 

“Oh, sounds interesting!” Riku exclaimed. It wasn’t very often that they filmed off their regular set, mostly because their web show’s budget didn’t allow for renting of outdoor locations and the like. Now, though, they had sponsorship from multiple companies, which meant that their budget was significantly larger as compared to before. 

Iori chuckled at Riku’s excitement, but eventually the smile dropped off his face and the omega let out a soft sigh. “Don’t push yourself, Nanase-san. You know you have the tendency to go overboard, and the cold weather is harsh on your body,” he reminded. 

Riku could pretend to be okay all he wanted, but Iori heard him cough every night. It'd gotten to the point that Riku had told Iori not to sleep with him for the next couple of weeks, maybe even months. “You’re busier than me,” Riku had reasoned. “You need to rest properly. Schoolwork’s hard, isn’t it? I don’t want to keep you up all night with my coughing.” 

And sure, it was difficult to juggle school and idol activities and helping Tsumugi with management, but even harder than that was to listen to Riku’s increasingly pained coughs, piercingly loud in the silence of the night. It didn’t matter whether Iori slept in his own room or in Riku’s room, anyway, because Riku’s coughs were more than loud enough for the omega to hear through the walls. 

Whenever Iori went to check on his alpha, though, Riku would shake his head and insist that he was fine, even when it was so obvious that he was anything but that. Riku was stubborn as a bull when he wanted to be, and Iori didn’t want to stress the alpha out and worsen his condition any further than it already was. Instead, he usually went over to Riku’s bedside table, picking up the inhaler that he knew was there before uncapping it and handing it over to the redhead. 

Sometimes, Riku refused to use the inhaler, claiming that he could deal with it, that it wasn’t such a serious attack. Other times, he was in too much pain to protest, gasping and trying to get air into his lungs. Those times, he would allow Iori to hold the inhaler at his lips and administer the required doses. 

Iori understood that Riku hated seeming weak, especially in front of the person he was supposed to be able to protect. But, alpha pride be damned, Iori wasn’t about to allow Riku to suffer because of something as nonsensical as that. 

They were in the peak of winter, now, and Riku’s condition seemed to worsen every day. It didn’t matter how many layers of clothes Iori forced on the alpha, how many cups of hot tea Sougo prepared for him – at the end of their recent concerts, Riku would be struggling for breath, similar to when they’d performed during that typhoon several months ago. Iori was glad that giving Riku the inhaler could manage his condition, at least for the time being. 

“I know,” Riku grumbled. “You’re such a worrywart.” 

“I wish I didn’t have to be.” 

“Anyway!” Tsumugi cut in. “There’ll be a lot of places to film at, so everyone will be busier than ever.” 

“I’m glad we have work to do! We’ll do our best!” Mitsuki assured brightly. 

“Yes! I look forward to working with everyone!” Tsumugi beamed. “Once the details have been settled, there’ll be a meeting for the show. From here on out, as the show gains more publicity, IDOLiSH7 may appear on other shows from this station as guests! And then, the number of promos you’ll appear in will increase too!” 

“Promos, huh?” Riku mused. They didn’t guest all that often, only a handful of times, so Riku had always wanted to be able to attend other idols’ programmes and interact with their seniors. IDOLiSH7 had officially debuted for only a little more than half a year, and even if they’d managed to triumph in Black or White, they were still barely fledglings in the industry. There was so much more they had to learn from everyone else. “Sounds fun! There’s a show I’ve always watched and looked up to… Maybe we’ll get to appear in it someday!” 

“Riku’s really getting into it,” Yamato commented, raising a brow at Iori and chuckling in mild amusement at the unadulterated affection on the omega’s face. He didn’t think he would ever be able to understand how Iori and Sougo felt towards Riku and Tamaki, or even how Mitsuki felt towards Nagi, but it was assuring to see that they were able to express their emotions freely around each other. 

Sougo let out a soft chuckle of his own – Riku's excitement wasn’t affecting only Iori. The alphas and omegas in the room could all tell from his scent how eager he was to work with more people, and it was helping to put a smile on their faces as well. “I’m looking forward to it as well. Right, Tamaki-kun?” 

“If it makes Rikkun so happy, then it can’t be a bad thing,” Tamaki shrugged, despite the fact that his lips were also curved upwards into a smile. “I think Iorin’s just as happy as Rikkun, though? Or am I wrong?” 

“Absolutely wrong, Yotsuba-san,” Iori insisted, schooling his expression back into a neutral one. He knew he’d let a smile slip, but how could he not, when Riku elated scent was practically screaming in Iori’s face? Still, that didn’t mean his worries had dissipated in the least. “I’ll be happy only if Nanase-san doesn’t overwork himself.” 

“I’m sure Riku understands, Iori,” Nagi said, placing a hand on Iori’s shoulder. “We should just have fun.” 

“Indeed!” Banri piped up. “There’ll be a lot of big-name shows you guys will be guest-starring in, like Monday Golden Paradise and Goodnight, Calico Cat Alleyway. Oh, and it looks like you’ll get to star on Re:vale’s show, too!” 

Sougo’s eyes widened in disbelief, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “Re:vale!?” 

“Is there something wrong?” Tamaki asked curiously. 

“You don’t know who Re:vale is?” Sougo questioned, sighing in defeat when Tamaki merely shook his head in mild confusion. “I’ll have to educate you tonight, then.” 

“Yeah. The group that was the overall winner for this year’s Black or White – Re:vale,” Banri explained, a small smile on his face. There was an odd atmosphere about him that the others couldn’t quite place. All they could identify was that his scent was different from the usual, not the usual smell of fragrant tea leaves. It wasn’t bitter, per se. If any of them had to put a name to it, Banri’s scent carried a hint of longing and regret, although none of them understood why. 

“Re:vale, huh. I really look up to them! Momo-san and Yuki-san are so cool!” Mitsuki exclaimed, completely oblivious to the shift in Banri’s scent. 

The elder omega simply smiled and nodded. “I’m a fan of Re:vale too.” 

“Is that so?” 

“I have all their CDs. I use them as reference for IDOLiSH7’s PR.” 

“Re:vale is also good at variety!” Tsumugi added. “They’re very cheery and bright, classic idols.” 

“We’re going to be on Re:vale’s show… That’s amazing!” Riku said. 

Iori nodded in agreement. “We’ve appeared on a quite a few big shows with them, but have yet to say anything more than a simple greeting to them,” he commented. 

There’d been Black or White, Soundship, and a couple other music programmes that they’d been on together with Re:vale, but the veteran group had always seemed so out of reach, and it was all they’d been able to do to pop by their waiting room and offer a quick greeting. 

Too caught up in wondering about the change in Banri’s scent and discussing potential guest appearances on Re:vale’s programme, NEXT Re:vale, nobody noticed the shift in Yamato’s mood. 

“Re:vale...” 

Except for Mitsuki, who glanced at the leader curiously. “Yamato-san? What’s wrong?” 

“Huh?” Yamato startled slightly, waving Mitsuki’s question off with a chuckle. “Oh, it’s nothing.” 

 

--- 

 

“They’re here again, huh,” Sougo sighed under his breath. 

The omega knew Tamaki was popular, and logically he understood why, but that didn’t particularly mean that he liked to see the hordes of fangirls fawning over the alpha. 

His alpha. 

Of course, the fans didn’t know that, nor would they find out about the relationship between the members of MEZZO any time soon. Still, it irked Sougo to see the ever-increasing number of fans following and approaching Tamaki wherever he went. 

It was irrational, he knew that. Sougo didn’t even know why he was this worried about people liking Tamaki. It wasn’t as if they liked Tamaki for who he was – they liked him because he was an idol, and a relatable one at that. If Tamaki was just a normal person on the streets, Sougo was sure that none of their fans would spare him a second glance. Sure, people could say they loved him, but Sougo knew that it wasn’t even remotely close to the kind of love that he held for Tamaki. 

And yet, as the few of them glanced through the translucent curtains, looking out the window at the smattering of people outside, Sougo felt the familiar urge to pull Tamaki out of sight, to somewhere that the fans wouldn’t be able to follow them to. 

He hated the jealousy that rose in his chest whenever a fan called out to Tamaki, regardless of their primary and secondary genders. Sougo couldn’t even deny the relief he always felt whenever Tamaki would pay them no heed, as he often did, instead continuing their conversation and going to their next destination. 

Now, though, they were in the office with the others, and of course the fans were waiting outside to catch even a glimpse of Tamaki. When the few of them had passed by the curtains to go to Tsumugi’s desk, take a look at something that she’d pulled up, some of them had managed to spot Tamaki’s silhouette, and had shouted “Tamaki!” loudly enough that they could hear. 

Sougo wasn’t a rude person, generally. That was what he thought of himself, at least, with the strict upbringing and general lack of freedom as a child. He didn’t think jealousy could change him quite this much, but there was no denying the soft click of his tongue when he heard the fans call out to his boyfriend, brows creasing into a frown for a fraction of a second. 

He knew Tamaki heard him, or could tell that he wasn’t happy from his scent, because Tamaki turned to look at him with a raised brow. Plastering on a smile, one that he was sure Tamaki could instantly see through, Sougo asked, “What is it?” 

“You’re asking me?” Tamaki retorted, before sighing and shaking his head. “You know what? Never mind. It's not like you’re going to tell me what’s wrong anyway, are you?” 

“Nothing’s wrong, though?” 

“Ah...” Yamato cut in, and Sougo was relatively certain that the beta was trying to prevent an argument from starting, “looks like there’s fangirls outside again. I guess they found out where our agency is.” 

Mitsuki glanced out the window, trying to see how many people there were. “Tamaki’s fans? This isn’t the first time it’s happened. Tamaki sure is popular!” 

“Tamaki!” 

If Sougo had been holding a pen, he would’ve broken it by now, with how hard he was balling his hand into a fist. He briefly felt glad that apart from Tamaki, the others who were currently in the office with them were betas, because they couldn’t tell from his scent how ridiculously annoyed he was. 

Mitsuki-san didn’t mean anything bad with his words, Sougo had to tell himself. I’m being stupid. 

“Hold up. I'm going to tell them they’re being too noisy,” Tamaki said, breaking Sougo out of his train of thought. The alpha was looking right at his partner, a knowing look on his face, and it was all Sougo could do to prevent himself from making too strong of a protest. 

“It would be best if you don’t show yourself to them,” was what he managed to come up with, and even to Sougo himself it sounded like a pathetic thing to say. 

There was absolutely no basis for the jealousy that he felt, although Sougo supposed it wasn’t uncommon for omegas to be possessive when it came to their alphas. So, instead, he tried his best to push the emotion into the back of his mind. 

“...also, telling them that they’re noisy is a little...” he added eventually, hoping that the others hadn’t caught on to the irritation in his tone. Yamato was perceptive enough that he noticed something was off with Sougo, but he didn’t voice it aloud. 

“Then… what should I say?” Tamaki asked, at a loss as to what to do. “If I told them they were disturbing the neighbourhood, they’d get mad at me, right?” 

Tsumugi stood up suddenly, flashing the others an assuring smile. “I’ll go warn them. It’s best if none of you showed your faces to them,” she said, already making her way out of the office. 

Tamaki frowned as he nodded. “Okay... sorry, Manager.” 

“There’s nothing to apologise for, Tamaki-san!” Tsumugi told the alpha before disappearing out the door. 

The relief that Sougo felt was instant – at least Tamaki wouldn’t be showing his face to the group of fans. 

When Sougo glanced back at his teammates, he was met with a questioning gaze from Mitsuki. “Sougo, are you alright? Did something happen at your schedule today?” he asked worriedly. “Are you tired?” 

“I’m fine, Mitsuki-san,” Sougo assured with a smile. 

“Doesn’t seem like it to me,” Tamaki huffed, looking thoroughly unimpressed. “Souchan is such a liar.” 

“Cut it out, you two,” Yamato sighed. “You wouldn’t like it if fans were all over Sou, would you, Tama?” 

Sougo blinked, slowly feeling his cheeks warm, and he looked over at Tamaki to see that the alpha was looking straight back at him, a somewhat confused expression on his face. Sougo wanted to go back to the dorm and hide in his room forever; damn Yamato and his big mouth. “T-that’s not...” 

“Souchan,” Tamaki cut him off, “you don’t like me having a lot of fans? Is that what it is?” 

“...I don’t particularly like it, no.” 

“Why? My fans are MEZZO’s fans, right? Doesn’t that mean they’re your fans, too?” 

“Oh god,” Mitsuki mumbled exasperatedly, having caught onto what Yamato had been implying. 

Sougo would’ve said the same, if not for the fact that he didn’t exactly know what to feel. On one hand, he was glad that Tamaki was more than just a little dense, and didn’t realise that Sougo was simply being jealous. On the other hand, Tamaki was more than just a little dense. 

Yamato snorted. “You’ll understand one day, Tama. Oh, Manager’s back.” 

 

--- 

 

The next time Sougo felt the now increasingly familiar jealousy was when Tamaki guested on a talk show the next evening. It was a solo schedule, because the programme invited idols who were still schooling to talk about what it was like to juggle school and activities. Iori had been invited too, but he’d already accepted another schedule with Mitsuki and hadn’t been able to make time for it. 

The show was broadcast live, so Sougo was watching it in the living room with Nagi, Riku, and Yamato. It was barely a minute into Tamaki’s appearance onscreen that Sougo wished he could be watching in the privacy of his own room, because then he could take out his irrational anger on his King Pudding plush. 

But it would be strange if he just stood up and left, especially since it’d only been a few seconds since Tamaki made his way to his seat, looking at the audience disinterestedly. In spite of himself, Sougo opted to stay and watch with the others, even though he knew fully well that Riku and Nagi would be able to see through his scent easily enough. And now, today’s guest! High school student and idol, IDOLiSH7’s Yotsuba Tamaki-kun!” 

’Sup .” 

Kyaaaa !” 

“Sougo... the poor cushion didn’t do anything wrong...” Nagi trailed off, staring wide-eyed at the sofa cushion that Sougo was currently digging his fingers into. He looked like he was trying to rip it apart with his bare hands. 

The omega’s eyes widened, and he let the cushion drop onto his lap. “Sorry.” 

“Tamaki-kun, the crowd’s going wild! You sure are one good looking guy! You’re a lot bigger than I thought you’d be, now that I’ve met you in person,” the host chuckled. 

Kyaaaaaaa !” 

“Tamaki! Tamaki!” 

“S-Sougo-san,” Riku said, wincing as Sougo crushed the thankfully empty can of juice that had been sitting on the table just moments ago. 

“...sorry.” 

“Shh!” Tamaki shushed the fans. 

Kyaaaaaa !” 

The host laughed heartily at the audience’s reaction. “The crowd just won’t stop cheering! Now, a word for the audience from you.” 

“Tamaki! Take me!” 

“Sure.” 

“Oi, Sou, don’t destroy the remote!” 

Kyaaaaa !” 

“So, shh! Quiet.” 

The TV was turned off abruptly, and Sougo nearly slammed the remote through the table before stalking out of the living area, leaving the other three gaping at him as he left. They heard his room door open, slam shut, and then the sound of something thudding against the door. 

Riku stared at Nagi, blinking slowly as he tried to process what had just happened. “Is Sougo-san... jealous?” he asked in a whisper, as if Sougo could possibly hear him. He jumped a little when he heard something else hit the door, this time harder than the previous time. “It’s kind of scary...” 

“Oh, Sougo...” Nagi sighed, shaking his head forlornly. “Maybe we should tell Tamaki to be more careful with his words? It's easy to misunderstand.” 

Yamato rolled his eyes, picking up his half-empty can of beer from the table. “Believe me, Tama wouldn’t even know the implications behind what he says,” the beta heaved a sigh of his own. “Just yesterday, we were at the office and there were fans gathered outside, right? Tama was going to go out and tell them to be less loud, but Sou was so against it, it would’ve been hilarious if only Tama understood why. I even hinted it to him, but he didn’t get it.” 

“It is Tamaki,” Riku reasoned. “He really doesn’t understand things like this, does he? Poor Sougo-san.” 

“You’re one to talk,” Yamato said dryly. “Ichi may not be jealous over your fans or anything now, but you know he’s been pretty damn worried about you recently. Stop pushing him away, Riku.” 

“What? I-” Riku broke off to cough once, then twice, and a few more times in rapid succession. When Nagi hurriedly got up to retrieve his inhaler, though, Riku shook his head weakly before letting out another series of coughs. He clutched onto his chest, desperately trying to get his breathing to even out. “I-it’s fine. This much is...” he broke off briefly to gasp for air, “it’s okay.” 

Nagi didn’t look convinced, but Riku managed to force a smile at the other alpha, taking slow and deep breaths to calm the attack down, and Nagi sighed. “I’ll get you some warm water, then.” 

It was another few minutes before Riku felt fine enough to speak. “I know he is,” Riku mumbled in response to Yamato’s words, grimacing at the prick of pain in his chest as he spoke. “I always get like this during winter, though. I can’t really help it.” 

Riku wasn’t blind, although admittedly he was dense as well, maybe just a little less dense than Tamaki was. It was easy to see how worried Iori was about him, and Riku didn’t exactly enjoy pushing his boyfriend away either, but his condition was his problem, something he had to deal with on his own. It didn’t seem right to burden Iori with having to take care of him, not when Iori was already dealing with so many things. 

Still, he knew that it was putting a strain on his and Iori’s relationship. Riku had been having coughing fits on and off throughout the first half of January, but now it was only getting worse, even though the weather wasn’t getting that much colder. In fact, Riku was almost surprised that It'd taken this long for his health to worsen, because usually he’d be like this by the latter half of November. He supposed it had to do with his improved stamina and overall health through dance and vocal lessons, as well as performing for full-length concerts. 

That, and because of Iori’s presence, the calming pheromones that he emitted to help Riku whenever he was feeling upset or having an attack. Riku didn’t say it enough, but he was really grateful for Iori. The omega didn’t even need to purposefully emit calming pheromones; just him being around helped a lot. 

But Iori was busy, they all were, and Riku didn’t want to take away his precious rest time. Iori always told him that he didn’t mind, that he would rest better if he was with Riku, but the alpha didn’t buy a single word of it. How would he rest, when Riku constantly woke up in the middle of the night in a coughing fit? He doubted anybody could sleep through something like that, least of all Iori who wasn’t even a particularly heavy sleeper. 

As it was, Iori slept at well past midnight every day, and sometimes got up long before the sun rose. He would try to stay awake during the commute between schedules, but it was apparent that he was tired, rightfully so. The only reason Riku was pushing Iori away was because he was worried for the omega, just as Iori was worried for him. But I miss him, Riku sighed inwardly. 

Everybody made sure Riku went to bed early nowadays, and at first Iori had checked in on him at night, make sure that he was asleep. But after he’d accidentally woken Riku up twice, because the alpha had only just managed to fall asleep and the sudden light filtering into his room was enough to wake him up, Iori hadn’t dropped by for their nightly scenting or kisses anymore. 

Now, they only ever scented or kissed each other before Riku was sent off to bed by one of the other members. Sometimes, Iori would be busy with schoolwork or management duties, and Riku didn’t want to disturb him, so they skipped the night-time routine entirely. It was lonely, painfully so, and Riku had caught Iori standing outside his room door a handful of times, but never entering for fear that he would wake the alpha up. 

The only times Iori did enter his room, even when Riku was supposed to be ‘asleep’, was when he was having a coughing fit in the middle of the night. Iori would insist that Riku use his inhaler, but sometimes Riku genuinely didn’t see a need to, and it was only after Riku had settled back down that Iori would return to his room. 

And Riku hated it. He hated being so weak, still so weak that he had to be babied by everyone else, including those younger than him. He hated that it was because of his weakness that he had to distance himself from his own boyfriend, because Iori deserved the rest more than anyone else. Riku was supposed to be an alpha, the centre of IDOLiSH7. He was supposed to lead the team, but now it felt like he was just putting extra burden on them unnecessarily. 

Too often, Riku wished that he hadn’t been born with weak lungs, because maybe then he would be able to properly carry out the roles assigned to him. With a sigh, Riku repeated, “I know how worried Iori is, alright? Believe me, more than anyone, I wish he doesn’t need to concern himself about my health.” 

“Riku, that’s not what Yamato meant,” Nagi offered gently, placing a hand on Riku’s shoulder. “Iori isn’t going to stop worrying about you just because you push him away, you know? If anything, he’ll only worry more. It would be strange if he wasn’t worried about his own alpha, right? I know you can tell, better than I can, that he gets distressed when you’re having an attack and refusing his help.” 

Yamato nodded in agreement, and it was all Riku could do to sigh again and reply with a defeated nod of his own. “I get it already. I’ll try not to do that anymore. No promises, because Iori still needs to get proper rest, and he won’t get that from sleeping with me,” Riku huffed. 

“It’s good enough if you try to rely on him, and us, a little more,” Yamato replied, ruffling Riku’s hair affectionately. “Drink some more warm water. Don't shower too late, got it? Onii-san's got to check on Sou to make sure he isn’t tearing his room down.” 

“Good luck, Yamato!” Nagi cheered, picking the empty mug up from the table. “I’ll get more water!” 

A small smile formed on Riku’s lips, and he nodded gratefully. “Thanks, Nagi. And thank you too, Yamato-san. I’ll talk to Iori properly. It's the least I should do.” 

Chapter Text

“Tamaki-san’s popularity sure is amazing,” Tsumugi commented, looking through the comments on IDOLiSH7’s official fan club site. “MEZZO’s always been popular, though.” 

She was with Iori in the office at the moment, because the omega had asked her to stay back for a little bit, to discuss how IDOLiSH7 was to proceed regarding promotions from now on. Now that IDOLiSH7’s name was becoming more widely known around the country, and even out of the country, they had to decide on the direction that they were aiming for. 

The first thing they’d done was to check the fans’ comments on their official site, to get an understanding of how people viewed IDOLiSH7 as a group and how the fans thought they should progress from now on. 

It wasn’t surprising to see that a good chunk of the comments was about Tamaki, or mentioned his name somewhere, with how quickly the alpha’s popularity was rising. “Ever since the start of the new year, he’s been appearing on more and more variety shows so he’s the most popular member by far,” the beta said, more to herself than to Iori. 

All of them could see how strongly the audience reacted whenever Tamaki stepped onto the filming set, or when he said something in response to a question. “Indeed,” Iori agreed, eyes scanning through the comments onscreen. “Do you understand why Yotsuba-san's the most popular out of all of us?” 

“Because of his appearance and dancing…” Tsumugi hummed thoughtfully. “And also because there’s lots of talk about his younger sister Aya, even though Tamaki didn’t quite intend for this to happen. However, I think the main reason is this: Tamaki-san is very close to the audience.” 

“Exactly,” Iori said, glad that he and Tsumugi were on the same page regarding this issue. “If he finds something boring, it’ll show on his face since he’s an honest person. And he’ll say what the audience members are all thinking, directly and without any hesitation.” 

“That being said, Yotsuba-san and Nii-san are complete opposites,” the omega added. “Nii-san is closer to his fellow performers, the creators, while Yotsuba-san is closer to the audience. If there’s a lull in the conversation, nii-san always tries his best to get everyone excited. Hence why his co-stars are usually very fond of him. However, from the viewer’s perspective, the merry atmosphere of the show may feel forced at times. 

“In contrast, Yotsuba-san doesn’t pander to those around him and oftentimes will say something unexpected, which causes a stir at the studio. As such, viewers feel admiration for Yotsuba-san’s character, as well as a sense of intimacy,” he continued, chuckling apologetically at the way Tsumugi was staring at him. “Was that too much to take in?” 

The beta let out a soft chuckle of her own before shaking her head. “Not really. Tamaki-san doesn’t respond the way the hosts expect him to, which is why sometimes they find that he’s troublesome to deal with. But because the audience likes the way he words his responses, the hosts have no choice but to go along with it. The performers’ side, and the viewers’ side… Television is quite deep, isn’t it?” 

Iori shrugged – this much was manageable. Tsumugi was right in saying that hosts didn’t always like Tamaki’s honesty when he guested on shows. Apart from it being out of line with their expectations, it also sometimes came off as rude, especially since Tamaki was still only a high-schooler. Of course, they never really voiced it aloud, because it was also true that Tamaki brought in better ratings for the shows that he appeared on, and nobody would be untactful enough to complain about his behaviour. 

“In other words, we have nothing to fear since we have these two as members in our group. Additionally, we also have Nanase-san – he possesses incredible vocal talent, and is a genius at charming everyone into loving him,” Iori said, eye twitching slightly when Tsumugi offered him a teasing smile. “I’m trying to be as objective as possible, Manager. Please don’t make this any harder for me than it already is.” 

“I know,” she laughed. “I just never expected that things would end up like this when we first formed the group. You've all come so far, haven’t you?” 

Before Iori even got the chance to reply, the office door clicked open, and the two turned to the source of the sound. When the familiar head of red hair poked through the door, Iori felt his cheeks burn. He genuinely hoped that Riku hadn’t heard a single word of what he’d just said. 

Riku pouted at the two, eyes fixed on his boyfriend’s figure, on his blushing face. “Iori, you haven’t gone home yet?” he asked, sounding awfully like an abandoned puppy. Belatedly, he realised that their manager was still there as well. “Ah, Manager...” 

“Thank you for all your hard work today, Riku-san.” 

The pout never left Riku’s face. “It’s just the two of you talking in private, again?” he asked. His tone wasn’t accusatory – it wasn’t that he was suspecting them of anything, since he knew fully well that Iori was helping out with management matters. If anything, he sounded worried. The only thing he could be concerned about was that his boyfriend was overworking himself, especially since it was already in the evening and they’d had schedules for the entire day. 

That, and it was Iori’s birthday today. Even if they’d already celebrated it with the members a couple of nights ago, Riku still wanted to spend some time with the omega before the day ended. As it was, they didn’t spend much time together anymore, since Riku was always heading to bed early and Iori always busy dealing with work of some sort. 

Iori glanced at Riku, at the expression the alpha was wearing, and a part of him wanted to just throw away his responsibilities for the moment and appease Riku. It wasn’t as if he’d forgotten his own birthday, and Riku wouldn’t have let him forget about it anyway, never mind the fact that co-stars had politely wished him a happy birthday earlier in the day as well. 

But work was work, and Iori would rather settle things earlier rather than later. He was plenty busy as it was, and delaying a discussion like this wasn’t going to help free up his schedule at all. Steeling his resolve, Iori met Riku’s hopeful gaze, smiling apologetically at the alpha. “Nanase-san, please go home first. I have something to discuss with her,” he said matter-of-factly, resisting the urge to sigh when Riku’s pout promptly turned into a frown. 

“You’re going to keep talking in private!?” Riku questioned incredulously. “It’s your birthday!” 

“I know,” Iori replied, with a soft sigh. “Please don’t interfere. If anything, you’re only causing me to have to stay here for longer. Now, hurry and go. I'll see you later, okay?” 

“Wait-” 

Iori pushed his boyfriend out the door, shutting it and turning back to Tsumugi. “Back to what I was saying. Nanase-san is a genius, overflowing with charm. As long as we have him, we will definitely reach the top. In this current era, what we need isn’t charisma – we need to become stars like Zero, charming and well-loved. If we continue our promotions with him as our centre…” 

The door opened again, and Iori groaned inwardly. “Nanase-san...” 

“U-um, you know, isn’t it a little weird!? That you two are just, talking alone all the time like this…” Riku trailed off, once more wearing a pout on his face. Iori raised a questioning brow at his alpha; it wasn’t as if Riku didn’t know the reason for their frequent private discussions. “I already know you’re discussing management stuff, so why can’t I be here?” 

Iori pursed his lips, trying to think of a tactful way to get Riku to just go ahead without him. “Didn’t I tell you not to interfere?” was what the omega settled for, feeling a little more of his resolve crumble when Riku grabbed his hand gently. Iori didn’t like to say no to Riku. “Why don’t you pick up some cake on the way back to the dorm and wait for me there? I’ll make this quick, alright?” 

“Promise?” 

Nodding, Iori replied, “Yes. Now go on. Don’t catch a cold.” 

“Fine,” Riku conceded, leaning forward to press a quick kiss to Iori’s cheek. “Make it quick!” 

“I got it already,” Iori chuckled, a fond smile adorning his blushing face. He began to push Riku out of the door once more, wanting to just get his discussion with Tsumugi over and done with. He didn’t want to put things off until his heat came around; Iori’d very much rather he be able to take his mind off of work, at least during the week that he would be in heat. “Off with you.” 

“W-wait-” 

Iori shut the door, listening for Riku’s footsteps that slowly grew fainter in volume. When he looked back at Tsumugi, the manager had a teasing look on her face again. “Really, now...” Iori huffed, sure that his cheeks were still tinted pink. “Someone’s happy, isn’t she?” 

“So, the person you kicked out just now is a genius overflowing with charm?” she questioned. 

The teasing lilt of her voice reminded Iori of a certain bespectacled beta in their group. “You’ve been hanging out with Nikaidou-san too often,” he accused, and Tsumugi simply feigned an innocent smile in response. “At least on stage, Nanase-san's a genius. Everywhere else he’s just a naive, spoiled brocon.” 

“T-that’s a little...” Tsumugi muttered, “...hypocritical.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Iori asked, heaving a defeated sigh when Tsumugi gave him a knowing look. So maybe Iori couldn’t deny that fact, but he wasn’t about to admit it aloud either. “Anyway, I predict that we will be getting more offers for another IDOLiSH7-branded show, after our current one starts airing. We’re almost there – soon it’ll be our era.” 

 

--- 

 

“I’m home,” Iori called out, putting his shoes aside and walking into the living area. 

It wasn’t too late, barely even nine in the evening, and most of the other members were gathered on the couch. The only ones missing were Tamaki and Sougo – MEZZO had had an evening schedule in Kanagawa, and were presumably on the way back with Banri at the moment. 

The moment Iori stepped through the door, Riku was out of his seat and heading to greet the omega. 

“Welcome home,” Riku said, giving Iori just enough time to set his bag down on the chair before he was pulled into a hug. Iori was taken aback for a fraction of a second, and then he let himself relax into Riku’s hold, resting his head on the alpha’s shoulder and taking in Riku’s comforting scent. Even if Iori didn’t voice it very often, he knew Riku could tell that he was tired. “Have you eaten?” 

Iori shook his head mutely, and Riku sat him down before going to the kitchen to grab dinner for him. While waiting for Riku to return, Iori glanced at the TV, surprised to see that they weren’t having another MagiKona marathon, but were instead watching DVDs of popular variety programmes. 

Mitsuki caught Iori’s gaze, patting the empty seat next to him. “Want to join us, Iori?” 

Normally, Iori wouldn’t hesitate to reply, because there was never any harm in learning from the veteran groups. But Iori was genuinely tired, and he still had to wake up early for school tomorrow. Sleeping with Riku generally helped, even if Iori was sometimes woken up by the alpha’s coughs. The sense of security that he got when sleeping with Riku was something that he had been getting used to, and it was strange to suddenly not sleep together for so many nights. 

Of course, Riku was still adamant about not letting Iori sleep with him, and it was frustrating, but Iori didn’t want to argue with the alpha and end up putting more stress on him. 

“It’s fine,” Iori replied, and Mitsuki shrugged before turning back to the TV. 

Riku came back with a bowl of ramen a few minutes later, setting it down in front of Iori and handing a pair of chopsticks to him. “Thank you, Nanase-san,” he said, smiling gratefully and starting on his dinner. 

Riku sat opposite of Iori and watched him eat in silence, brows furrowed into a slight frown as he tried to think of what to say. Conversation between the two always flowed easily, even when the topic was a difficult one, but the others were around and Riku wasn’t entirely sure if Iori wanted to discuss their recent disagreements right now. 

“Iori, can you come to my room later?” Riku asked. “I have something to talk about with you.” 

Iori stared at the alpha for a brief moment before nodding. “Okay. I'll go after I shower. Speaking of which,” he said, giving Riku a look, and Riku groaned. 

“Fine, I’ll take a shower now and then wait in my room for you.” 

After Riku went out of the living area, Yamato looked over at Iori. “Riku said he wanted to talk to you?” Yamato asked, receiving an affirmative nod in response. “It’s about time he took our advice. I know things have been a little rough between the two of you, but try to understand where he’s coming from.” 

“You’re both awkward when it comes to expressing concern for each other, huh,” Mitsuki joined in. “Be a bit more like Nagi. He’s shameless when it comes to things like that.” 

“Oh, Mitsuki, I can’t tell if that’s a compliment or an insult,” Nagi said, shaking his head gravely. 

“A compliment, dummy,” Mitsuki chuckled as Nagi threw his arms around him. “Don’t be too harsh on Riku, okay? It’s not too bad to be honest with him once in a while.” 

Iori hummed thoughtfully. “I’ll see how it goes.” 

“Ichi’s not really honest, is he?” Yamato chuckled. “Ah, the innocence of youth.” 

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Iori continued with his dinner, finishing the ramen and washing the bowl before going to take a shower. He passed by Riku in the corridor, chuckling exasperatedly when Riku stopped him on his way to the bathroom to ask, “You’ll come to my room, right?” 

“Why would I lie?” Iori retorted, giving Riku a light shove in the direction of his room. “Dry your hair.” 

Riku blinked at Iori, a smile slowly stretching across his face. He was beginning to miss Iori’s nagging, as much as it used to annoy him when they’d first met. They didn’t spend much time together recently, and what little time they did spend together was during meals together, on the way to and from schedules, or when Iori managed to find a small pocket of time to check on Riku in the evenings. 

It was strange, how Riku had gone from not having anyone nag at him daily, to being so used to it that the lack of it made him feel a sort of emptiness. “Yes, sir!” Riku saluted, quickly disappearing down the corridor and into his room. 

“What a cute person,” Iori mumbled to himself, unable to keep a smile from spreading across his own face. He was almost tempted to rush his shower, give himself more time to spend with Riku before the alpha was to go to bed. 

But Iori was exhausted, both physically and mentally, so he ended up taking his time and standing under the stream of hot water to let it ease the soreness of his muscles. He spent a good twenty minutes in the shower, only stepping out of the shower once he felt like his body was no longer aching. 

The omega went straight to Riku’s room, knocking on the door before pushing it open. “I’m done,” he said, as if Riku couldn’t already see that. 

Riku had been simultaneously reading a book and scrolling through his phone when Iori entered, and both tasks were immediately abandoned in favour of beaming up at Iori. “Sit down!” Riku urged, patting the empty space on his bed beside him. “Should I dry your hair for you?” 

Iori eyed the hairdryer that was already plugged in. “Are you asking me for permission, or just informing me that you’re going to do it?” Iori asked, snickering when Riku groaned in feigned annoyance. He sat down in front of Riku, setting his towel aside. “Go ahead.” 

He didn’t see the grin that formed on Riku’s face, but Iori did sense the spike in happiness emanating from the alpha. If something as mundane as letting Riku dry his hair could make Riku this happy, then Iori didn’t mind letting this become a routine. Of course, he didn’t need to be pampered to this extent, but he was happy if Riku was. For the most part, anyway. 

They sat there in silence for the next few minutes, the only sounds in the room being the constant whir of the hairdryer. When Iori’s hair was dry, Riku turned the machine off, putting it on his table and waiting for Iori to turn around to face him before speaking. “So, it’s been a while since we slept together.” 

“Two weeks and one day?” Iori asked, not keeping the bite out of his voice. “Not that I’m counting.” 

“Sorry,” Riku apologised, lip jutting out into a pout. He'd expected Iori to be at least this angry at him, considering how he’d basically made all of Iori’s decisions for him. For someone like Iori, who liked things to be planned out and executed in a proper fashion, Riku supposed it couldn’t feel too good. And yet Iori had gone along with him, and Riku knew he’d been taking Iori’s compliance for granted. “I miss it, too.” 

“But you’re still going to insist that I need ‘proper rest’, aren’t you?” Iori deadpanned. 

“I was thinking that if my condition isn’t too bad, then we could sleep together?” Riku suggested unsurely. Iori’s eyes widened slightly, surprised that Riku would be willing to compromise on something that he’d previously been so adamant about. “I-I mean, it’s fine if you don’t want to! I won’t force anything on you!” 

Iori raised a brow. “You mean like how you didn’t force me to sleep alone for the past fifteen days? Although you didn’t use your alpha voice on me, at least. If you did, I wouldn’t want to sleep with you again anyway.” 

“But-!” 

Holding a hand up, Iori continued, “Define your condition not being too bad.” 

“I guess, if I feel like I won’t wake you up in the middle of the night with my coughing...” he mumbled. 

Iori sighed softly, leaning forward so that he could cup Riku’s face with his hands, squeezing the alpha’s cheeks and eliciting a disgruntled noise from Riku. “I told you before, didn’t I, Nanase-san? I sleep better around you. Besides, if you end up having a coughing fit at night, what makes you think it’ll make a difference whether I sleep in my room or yours?” he questioned. “My room is right beside yours.” 

“Are you sure?” Riku asked, and it was all Iori could do to keep himself from sighing again. 

“I’m sure,” Iori said. “It doesn’t have to be every night; it’s not like I slept over all the time. Just, once in a while after a long day would be really nice. I’ll only say this once, but your scent helps with the exhaustion. If you’ve been wondering why I've looked like a zombie the past couple of days, it’s that sleeping alone all the time doesn’t quite cut it anymore.” 

When Riku didn’t answer, brows furrowed in contemplation, Iori pressed a quick kiss to the alpha’s lips. Riku’s cheeks were quick to turn red, and Iori smiled in amusement. “I know you’re worried, but so am I. You’re not the most observant person, Nanase-san,” the omega stated bluntly. “Are you feeling okay enough to sleep together tonight?” 

“Yeah, I feel better after getting this off my chest,” Riku admitted sheepishly. “Your scent helps me stay calm during an attack, too. But we won’t do this every night! It stresses you out when I have an attack, doesn’t it?” 

“Well, yeah. It's worse when you don’t let me help you, though,” Iori shrugged, letting go of Riku’s face and shifting so that he was leaning against the alpha. He hummed appreciatively as Riku turned to nuzzle his scent glands, and he craned his neck to give Riku better access, make it easier for Riku to scent him. 

When Riku suddenly licked at Iori’s scent glands, a pleasant shudder ran down the omega’s spine, and a whine escaped his lips. “Nanase-san,” he breathed out, gasping as he felt Riku’s teeth graze over the sensitive skin at the nape of his neck teasingly. “W-wait.” 

Riku pulled back, eyes clouded over with lust, and Iori gulped. He'd never seen an expression like that on Riku before. Iori could smell the desire radiating off Riku, and he wasn’t sure if he was ready to move onto the next stage of their relationship. “Not now,” Iori said, trying to sound as firm as possible, but it was hard when Riku was looking at him with such a longing gaze. “Please.” 

The pleading tone in Iori’s voice was what snapped Riku out of his daze, and he blinked at the omega, as if he didn’t realise what he’d just done. Then his eyes widened in realisation, and he was apologising immediately. “I don’t know what came over me! I’m sorry, Iori, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable!” 

What horrified Iori, more than the fact that Riku had apparently tried to initiate something that went beyond just making out, was that he could feel the beginnings of arousal in the pit of his stomach. It’s because my heat’s coming, he reasoned, hoping that his face wasn’t burning in shame, that Riku couldn’t smell it on him. It was unlikely, but Iori could hope. I can’t believe I reacted so strongly to that. 

If Riku could smell any hint of want in Iori’s scent, he didn’t bring it up, and for that Iori was glad. “W-why don’t you get the cake?” Iori suggested, hating the way his voice sounded higher-pitched than usual. It was an obvious sign of submissiveness, and Iori knew he wanted to submit to Riku. It was terrifying. 

Riku was quick to nod, and he was out of his room in seconds. 

 

--- 

 

Yamato raised a brow as Riku dashed into the kitchen, crouching down behind the counter and letting out a series of undignified groans. The beta looked at Nagi. “What’s up with him?” 

Nagi sniffed the air, mouth dropping open when he identified Riku’s scent. His nose wasn’t as tuned as Iori’s was in regards to Riku, but even he could recognise the unfiltered want being reflected in Riku’s scent at the moment. It was safe to say that Nagi had absolutely no idea if he should reply Yamato’s question truthfully. 

Mitsuki was sitting in his lap, eyes still fixed on the TV, but Nagi was sure that if he gave Yamato an honest reply, his boyfriend wouldn’t be so invested in the show he was watching anymore. Mitsuki might have been supportive of Riku and Iori’s relationship thus far, but if he knew that Riku had made a move on Iori, then maybe that support would be retracted. 

“He must be getting Iori’s cake!” Nagi lied. Riku’s sigh of relief was loud enough that all of them could hear him, and honestly Nagi was just glad that his friend hadn’t ended up having an attack from how panicked he’d seemed. He could only assume Riku’s attempt to make a move hadn’t gone well. 

“Is that so,” Yamato said, turning his focus back to the TV. 

Nagi was almost tempted to ask Riku what exactly had happened, but he didn’t want to risk being too obvious, so he stayed in his position as Mitsuki’s chair. They heard Riku open the fridge, rummage around for cutlery, and then the redhead was heading back to his room. Nagi watched as Riku left, hoping that things wouldn’t turn sour between the couple, whatever it was that’d happened. 

Riku took a breath to calm his racing heart down, walking back to his room slowly in the hopes that it would help him clear his head. 

It didn’t, but only because the closer he got to his room, the stronger Iori’s flustered scent became. Riku supposed it wasn’t strange that Iori was freaking out, considering the fact that Riku himself was feeling the exact same way. 

Riku still didn’t fully understand why he had acted the way he did. It would be easy to blame it on the fact that he and Iori had been lacking physical affection in the past weeks, or because Iori had responded with an equal amount of fervour. But those were excuses, and Riku knew it. 

He recognised the fact that his inner alpha wanted to bring their relationship to the next level, but they had been together for barely over half a year, and it was obvious that Iori was far from ready for that. It wasn’t as if Riku was particularly ready, either. 

“I’m coming in,” Riku called out before he entered his room, noticing the way Iori stiffened slightly and sighing softly. “I brought the cake. I hope strawberry shortcake’s alright.” 

“Yeah,” Iori replied, managing a smile at the alpha. “Thank you, Nanase-san.” 

“Ah. I didn’t bring a candle,” Riku frowned. He made to turn around. “I’ll go-” 

Iori’s hand shot out to catch Riku’s wrist, and he shook his head. “It’s fine,” he assured. “I’m hungry.” 

A lie, really, since Iori had just eaten dinner an hour ago. 

Riku wasn’t convinced, but he sat back down anyway. “Happy birthday, Iori.” 

Iori’s smile widened, just slightly. “Can’t believe I’m 18.” 

“Me neither,” Riku chuckled. His smile dropped off his face, and he said, “I’m really sorry about what I did, Iori. I made a promise not to do anything that you didn’t want to, and I nearly broke that promise. Maybe it’d be better if you slept in your room tonight after all.” 

“I was just... caught off guard, that’s all,” Iori explained, teeth now worrying at his bottom lip. He picked up a fork, cutting out a bit of cake and holding it in front of Riku’s mouth. “We’re going to finish this cake, then we’ll brush our teeth and sleep. Together. Okay?” 

“But what if it happens again?” 

Iori sighed. “Eat the cake, Nanase-san. I don’t blame you for what happened. I was at fault, too.” If Iori hadn’t reacted like that to Riku’s actions, he was sure that the alpha wouldn’t have continued doing what he’d been doing. They were both equally responsible for how things had turned out. 

Riku pursed his lips, but he ate the cake held in front of him, doing the same for Iori as well. They fed each other back and forth in relative silence, until the plate was devoid of any crumbs or leftovers. 

Iori grabbed the empty plate from his boyfriend, but Riku promptly snatched it back and stuck his tongue out childishly. “No chores for you today,” Riku said, earning himself an unimpressed stare from the omega. “You’re more tired than I am.” 

“Just don’t wear yourself out,” Iori warned. 

“Got it,” Riku replied, bringing the used cutlery out to the kitchen to wash. 

It was only when he was a safe distance away from his room that he let out a few coughs that he’d been doing his best to suppress, wincing at the familiar stabbing pain in his chest. 

It wasn’t anything that he couldn’t handle, so after he steadied his breathing, Riku quickly did the dishes and hurried back to his room. The others had retired into their rooms by then and, to Riku’s relief, nobody had come out to check on him. He hated to disturb others with his coughing fits, especially during the colder months of the year when they became more frequent. 

Most times, they were tolerable, but everyone would always fuss over him and, honestly, it was frustrating. Riku didn’t like to be babied, didn’t like to make everyone worry about him over something that he had been born with. Of course, there’d been more than one occasion wherein he’d overestimated himself and passed out, so maybe some of their concerns were valid. 

But with how busy everyone had been recently, Riku couldn’t bring himself to trouble them any further with his health problems. He already occasionally woke them up in the middle of the night, and that was as much trouble as he felt like he should be causing for his members. 

Sighing under his breath, Riku trudged back to his room. “I’m back,” he announced, pushing the door open and stopping dead in his tracks. An incredulous chuckle made its way past Riku’s lips, as a fond smile slowly stretched across his face. 

Iori’s eyes had, at some point in time, fluttered shut, and the omega’s shoulders were rising and falling in time with his even breaths. When he was asleep, Iori actually looked his age, the usual crease of his brows evened out to reveal the peaceful expression of a sleeping eighteen-year-old. 

“Iori,” Riku called out, not quite wanting to wake his boyfriend up but also knowing that he would receive a lecture from the omega if he didn’t. He could already hear Iori’s voice in his head; Why didn’t you wake me up? I haven’t brushed my teeth yet! “Wake up.” 

A few gentle shakes to the shoulder later, and Iori was blinking up blearily at the alpha. “Nanase-san...?” 

“You fell asleep,” Riku told him, chuckling at the way Iori rubbed at his eyes. “Come on, let’s brush our teeth. Then we can sleep, okay?” 

Nodding, Iori yawned and got off Riku’s bed, and they went to the bathroom to brush their teeth together. 

Iori remained in his half-asleep state the entire time, proof of just how exhausted he was. And yet, he still found the time and energy to worry about Riku. The alpha didn’t know what he’d done to deserve somebody like Iori. 

They settled into bed relatively quickly – Riku was glad his condition was alright, at least for the time being. He couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t wake up into a coughing fit, but he could hope for a peaceful night of rest. Iori certainly needed it. 

Within seconds of his head hitting the pillow, Iori was out like a light. 

Riku brushed the stray strands of hair away from Iori’s face, dropping a kiss to his boyfriend’s forehead. 

“Happy birthday, Iori. I love you,” he whispered, wrapping his arms loosely around Iori’s waist and letting himself drift off into sleep. And, for the first time in several days, Riku managed to sleep through the entire night.

Chapter Text

The next two weeks consisted of a planning meeting for their show, as well as several guest appearances on other groups’ variety programmes. 

Things mostly went back to normal between Riku and Iori. They didn’t sleep together every night, because some nights Riku felt worse than others, and those nights he would insist on Iori sleeping in his own room. Iori didn’t want to protest; they’d agreed to compromise, and he wasn’t about to go back on his word. 

They didn’t talk about what had almost happened that night. There was a silent acknowledgement that they wouldn’t bring up how, yes, Riku had very nearly initiated sex. After all, Iori’s heat would be starting soon, and they didn’t want to risk a repeat of that night. Pre-heat made Iori needier than usual, and the omega wasn’t proud of the thoughts that sometimes ran through his mind. 

Nagi had tried to ask Riku about it once, two days after the fact, but Riku had laughed it off and assured him that nothing had happened. He also made Nagi promise not to bother Iori about this issue, which of course made Nagi even more suspicious, but the blond alpha didn’t argue. He knew fully well that it was better not to challenge an alpha when it concerned their omega, even if the two had yet to mate. 

As the winter dragged on, though, Riku’s condition slowly deteriorated. It had gotten to the point that he had mild attacks in the day, and those gradually turned into full-blown attacks at night. Being with Iori helped, so sometimes Riku didn’t mind the omega staying with him to calm the attack down. 

He couldn’t deny that he did sleep better with Iori, but at this point, there was only so much that having Iori around could do. Riku was familiar enough with his body to know that his condition was at its worst in February and March, and there really wasn’t any way to prevent the attacks. The coming of spring didn’t always signify an improvement in his condition, either – pollen was also something that could easily trigger an attack. 

For the most part, their guest appearances went well. That was, if one left out the fact that Riku had frightened an already scared Tamaki, saying something about how he used to be able to see ghosts; Iori didn’t buy it, but Riku had insisted later that evening that he hadn’t been lying. 

Iori accepted his explanation eventually, more because he didn’t want Riku to get too worked up trying to convince him rather than because he actually believed Riku could see ghosts. There was absolutely no scientific reasoning behind that, and Iori didn’t believe in things that couldn’t be proved. 

There was also that incident where the three oldest members of their group had gone on some kind of local gourmet tour, which had veered completely off-track. The trio had ended up on a shopping spree for all sorts of confectionery. Tamaki had, unexpectedly, been elated when his boyfriend and the others returned to the dorm with bags of said confectionery. 

And maybe their planning meeting for A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7 had resulted in Iori being given the responsibility of tutoring Tamaki for their upcoming entrance exams. It was almost as if he himself didn’t have to study for those very same entrance exams. Not that Tamaki particularly wanted to go to university; the alpha had said that if he failed exams, he would just not get a degree. 

That, and Iori had already been tutoring Tamaki plenty in their classes at school. Taking on an extra burden like that hadn’t been on the top of Iori’s list of to-dos. He didn’t even know if the filming of the show would make it in time for entrance exams, which were less than a month away. 

All that aside, things had gone relatively fine. They were entering the second week of February soon, which meant Iori’s heat was right around the corner. 

The day right before his heat was due to arrive found the members of IDOLiSH7 in Otoharu’s office. Nagi’s rut had just ended that very morning, and already he was almost back to his usual self. Riku didn’t know how he did it; heck, Mitsuki didn’t know how his boyfriend managed to be this energetic after three days of whatever it was that alphas did during ruts. 

Iori wasn’t too affected by the remnants of Nagi’s pheromones from his rut. If it was Riku, then that would be an entirely different story altogether. But Nagi wasn’t his alpha, and the blond had been considerate enough to bother with scent neutralisers, so Iori wasn’t bothered. 

They could guess that the sudden meeting had something to do with their show, considering the fact that they would be recording the first episode about a week after Iori’s heat would end. 

But before that was their first guest appearance on NEXT Re:vale. 

“Congrats on the show!” Otoharu said, as if he hadn’t already congratulated them before. He picked up the scores that had been sitting on his table, holding them out to the boys. “It was decided a while ago, but here’s the theme song!” 

Mitsuki took the scores from the president, quickly scanning through the song to get a rough idea of what it was like. As the song played out in Mitsuki’s head, a smile stretched across his face. “Wow... What a great song! I’m sure our viewers will remember it and enjoy singing it too!” 

Nagi nodded in agreement with his boyfriend. “It’s perfect for Riku’s voice!” 

Riku flushed at the praise, and Iori’s lips twitched with the urge to smile as well. The alpha truly didn’t give himself enough credit when it came to his singing ability. But that was fine; Iori didn’t mind reminding him that he deserved all the praise in the world. 

“You think so?” Riku asked, scratching his cheek sheepishly when both Nagi and Mitsuki nodded firmly in reply. “Thanks!” 

“This is the biggest chance for us, IDOLiSH7, to spread our name,” Iori told the alpha, confident that Riku would be able to do this song justice. Their show would be, had to be, a success, and the first step to doing that was to do well with their theme song. “Sing it with all your might!” 

Riku nodded, returning Iori’s smile with one of his own. “Yeah! Got-” the alpha broke off to let out a few weak coughs, and Iori’s heart stuttered in his chest. Riku forced his expression into a neutral one, instead of allowing himself to outwardly show the pain in his chest. “…Got it!” 

Iori wasn’t fooled; his scent told Iori everything he needed to know. “Nanase-san...” 

“I’m fine!” Riku assured, visibly wincing as he clutched at his chest. “Don’t... don’t worry about me.” 

Grimacing, Iori said, “You’re not.” He pretended not to realise that Riku had attempted to use his alpha voice on him – he's in discomfort, Iori told himself. He doesn’t mean it. Arguing with Nanase-san will only worsen his condition. 

“I’ll be fine,” Riku repeated, managing a tight smile at his boyfriend. “Let’s distribute the lines.” 

 

--- 

 

Iori’s heat was a long seven days, both for Iori and for Riku. 

The fact that Riku had, consciously or otherwise, used his alpha voice on Iori didn’t sit well with the omega. It felt like forever ago that Riku had last done that; it was likely that that performance in the typhoon had been the last occurrence. 

Iori didn’t want to pin any blame on the alpha, knowing fully well that Riku was going through a plethora of his own issues. Riku didn’t have to voice it aloud for Iori to know that the alpha considered himself a burden to those around him. That'd always been one of Riku’s biggest concerns, after all. 

But the fact that he’d gone as far as to use his alpha voice had been unsettling, to say the least. Iori chose not to confront the alpha, at least not that very evening. His heat was due to hit the next afternoon, and the last thing Iori wanted was for him to go into heat while on bad terms with Riku. They’d just very barely come to a compromise regarding their sleeping arrangements, and now it seemed like there was something new to argue about. 

Nonetheless, Iori borrowed articles of clothing from Riku for his nest, because he knew that his heat would be terrible without them. He wasn’t petty enough that he would subject himself to more pain than necessary. 

He also scented a few of his own jackets and sweaters, remembering that Riku had mentioned how his scent helped him to calm down after attacks. Maybe he was a little upset at the alpha, but he still worried about Riku’s health. If there was anything at all that Iori could do to ease Riku’s attacks in his absence, then he would do it. 

Iori’s heat was slow to build up, as it usually was, so the omega had planned to spend some of his morning helping out with whatever chores he could. Riku was out, all the alphas were, which was why Iori even felt that it was okay for him to be helping out around the dorm. He wouldn’t risk triggering another rut or making any of the alphas uncomfortable by being around his heat pheromones. 

Yamato was around to keep an eye on him – the beta only had a late afternoon filming for his drama that day, and Tsumugi would be picking him up at the dorm. Iori had honestly been surprised when Yamato woke up before nine considering the fact that the leader usually got up at noon when he didn’t have anything on in the mornings. 

By the time it was ten, the other members had left the dorm, leaving Iori and Yamato to deal with the aftermath of their breakfast. Which was fine; Iori worked relatively fast, and Yamato wasn’t complaining for once. 

What wasn’t fine was when Yamato glanced at the omega curiously. “Hey, Ichi.” 

“Hm?” 

“Two weeks back, when Riku told you to talk to him in his room,” Yamato started. 

He didn’t get to continue his sentence before Iori was choking on nothing at all, feeling his face heat up at the thought of what had happened that night. His gut tightened as he thought of how it would feel like to actually have sex with Riku, and Iori wished he could blame his heat for the needy whine that threatened to make its way past his lips. 

“...yes?” Iori managed, voice strained with the effort to hold back the urge to whimper. 

Even if he wasn’t in the beginnings of his heat, Iori knew that he would react the same way. 

Yamato raised a brow. “What happened back then?” 

The omega was sure that his face was as red as a tomato at this point. “I- what?” 

“Are you okay?” Yamato asked, tilting his head to the side in concern. “Is it your heat?” 

Oh, thank god, Iori couldn’t help but think. Nikaidou-san thinks this reaction is because of my heat. 

Iori nodded, feeling the familiar coiling in his stomach already. Normally, he would still be able to carry out normal tasks while waiting for his heat to peak, but Yamato bringing up the topic of that night wasn’t helping very much. He set the plate he was holding down, taking a few deep breaths in the hopes that it would help to delay the accelerated beginnings of his heat. 

It didn’t work, not at all, and soon Yamato was putting his cloth down as well. “Alright, off to your heat room you go,” Yamato ordered, drying his hands and guiding Iori by the shoulders to his heat room. Iori didn’t know if he was imagining the look of realisation on Yamato’s face – had the beta figured him out after all? Yamato was scarily astute, even if he didn’t always voice his observations aloud. 

Yamato left the room once he made sure Iori had a jug of water on the table by the wall, reminding Iori to stay hydrated and that they would check on him later in the day. Then the door was closed, and Iori locked it with shaky hands. 

He could already feel the strain of his erection against the front of his pants, and his ass ached with the need to be knotted by an alpha – by Riku. 

Iori wasn’t used to his heat hitting this fast, and it vaguely reminded him of how he’d woken up in heat the morning after Music Festa. If he had to compare then and now, it was definitely worse back then, but now he had the additional knowledge that Riku wanted to have sex with him. 

And god, did Iori want his alpha’s knot. 

He stripped his pants off, whining at the friction the action created and shivering as the cool air of the room hit his feverish skin. His underwear was already beginning to soak through with slick, so those were quickly disposed of as well, and Iori desperately grinded against the sheets, hoping that it would help to ease his throbbing member. 

Iori reached over to the drawer by the bedside where he kept his supplies for his heat, feeling around for and pulling out a dildo. He didn’t have to use any sort of lube, simply pushing it into his aching entrance and nearly sobbing at the momentary relief it brought. The relief was soon replaced with the need to move the dildo, create some friction and bring him to his orgasm. 

The omega thought about what it would feel like to have Riku’s member inside of him, to have the alpha thrusting into his hole. Nanase-san's cock is probably bigger than this, Iori thought, whimpering as he sped up his pace, needing to release the unyielding pressure in his stomach. 

Thinking about what had nearly transpired that night, as Iori soon learnt, didn’t help at all. In fact, ever since meeting Riku and having his heat triggered by the alpha, Iori could no longer go through heats without thinking of the alpha. He longed to have Riku’s knot, to be physically connected to Riku in the most intimate way possible. 

There wasn’t a moment in his heats that he wasn’t thinking about Riku, of what it would feel like to have the alpha bite into the skin over his scent glands while simultaneously pushing his knot into him. Marking Iori as his. Mating him. 

Iori came with a shudder, choking out a sob as slick gushed out of his ass, all over the dildo and his hand. It wasn’t enough – wouldn't ever be enough. The first three days of Iori’s heat was always filled with round upon round of climaxing, the omega never able to find more than just a few minutes to rest. He knew fully well that his heat would only ebb, at least for longer than just a few minutes, if he had an alpha’s knot, but Iori also knew that he wasn’t ready for that yet. 

And yet, as he started to pump the dildo into his entrance once more, using his other hand to stroke his erect cock, Iori couldn’t help the torrent of images that his mind was feeding him. Images of Riku hovering over him, pushing his cock into him, kissing him and muffling his moans as he thrusted into Iori’s welcoming hole. In a distant corner of his hazy mind, Iori wondered if Riku would be just as aroused as he was, if Riku would litter his body with love bites as a sign of possession. 

Iori imagined Riku calling his name, looking at him with the lust-filled eyes from that night, and he whimpered. The dildo he was using seemed painfully lacking, nothing at all compared to what an alpha’s knot would feel like. The only thing that was of any consolation was that he was surrounded by the articles of clothing that Riku had scented; it was the closest thing he could get as a replacement for Riku’s presence. 

“N-Nanase-san,” Iori gasped, an unbecoming moan escaping his lips as he came for the second time. 

 

--- 

 

As fate would have it, Iori’s heat ended on the same day that they were to appear on NEXT Re:vale. 

It’d supposed to have been recorded two days prior, but they managed to delay it only because it wasn’t broadcasted live. But two days had been all Tsumugi had been able to negotiate for, because the filming crew needed time to edit everything and make sure that the weekly broadcast could go smoothly. 

As usual, Iori’s heat fully ended in the later part of the morning, but he’d already gone to shower sometime at seven in preparation for the day ahead. He still felt uncomfortably warm, even though they were well into the second week of February and winter was still going strong. At least there was no longer the insatiable urge to orgasm, and Iori didn’t want to spend any more time pleasuring himself when they had an important schedule in the evening. 

While waiting for the rest of his heat to ebb completely, Iori cleaned up around his heat room, throwing all the dirty clothes into the laundry basket to be dealt with later at night. Sougo came to check on him sometime around eleven with food and water, knocking on the door and peeking into Iori’s room when the younger told him that it was fine to enter. 

Sougo set the tray on the table, shutting the door and approaching Iori. “How’re you feeling, Iori-kun?” he asked, noting the still-flushed appearance of the younger omega. Iori’s scent still carried faint traces of his heat, although Sougo may have been confusing it with the smell of the rest of the room. 

Iori shrugged, glancing at the bowls of food on the tray. “Tired, but I took a shower already, so I don’t feel sweaty and disgusting anymore,” he replied, picking up the bowl of miso soup and taking a sip. He hummed appreciatively. “Did nii-san make this?” 

“Of course you would be able to tell,” Sougo chuckled. “Riku-kun helped out, as much as he could.” 

The mention of the alpha’s name was enough to bring heat to Iori’s cheeks. He wasn’t particularly proud of how he’d spent his heat. “How has Nanase-san been? Are his attacks still getting worse?” Iori asked, pointedly ignoring the way he was blushing, thankful that Sougo didn’t point it out either. 

Sougo pursed his lips. “I don’t hear it very much from my room, but that appears to be the case. There was one incident where we almost wanted to bring him to the hospital,” Sougo admitted, looking guilty for something that certainly wasn’t his fault. “He told us not to tell you, but...” 

Sighing softly, Iori nodded in understanding. “It’s fine. I’m glad you told me. And thank you, Ousaka-san, for bringing lunch for me,” he said, offering a grateful smile to the elder. 

“It’s not a problem at all, Iori-kun,” Sougo assured. “I’ll be heading off for MEZZO’s schedule, then. I'll see you at the studio in the evening.” 

“Have a good day at work,” Iori said, and Sougo smiled before leaving the room. 

Iori ate his lunch in silence, mind running through the list of things they had to do today. He was exhausted from his heat, he couldn’t deny that, but it wasn’t as if he could afford the time to rest. There was too much to do, and too little time. 

With a tired huff, Iori gathered the dirty dishes, leaving his heat room for the first time in days to go to the kitchen. Riku was out for a schedule with Yamato, for which Iori was rather glad. He didn’t know if he was up to facing the alpha just yet – they still hadn’t discussed that incident, and even now that his heat was technically over, Iori couldn’t take his mind off it. 

He walked into the living area to Mitsuki and Nagi seated on the couch... 

...making out. 

“Ahem,” Iori cleared his throat, wondering how it was that neither of them had noticed him entering the area. How engrossed had they been, to not have realised that they were no longer alone? 

Mitsuki jumped back, as if he’d been jolted, and the beta stared at his brother with wide eyes. Iori didn’t know exactly how long they’d been making out on the couch, but the redness of Mitsuki’s lips indicated that it hadn’t been short. “I-Iori! You’re here!” 

“In case you forgot, nii-san, I live here as well,” Iori deadpanned. He directed his gaze to Nagi, the alpha not looking the least bit sorry about being walked in on. “I find it hard to believe that Rokuya-san couldn’t smell me. I'm not using scent neutralisers yet.” 

Mitsuki narrowed his eyes at his boyfriend. “Nagi...” 

“I swear I didn’t know!” Nagi defended, hands held up in surrender. “I was too focused!” 

“On kissing my brother.” 

Yes!” 

“Sorry, Iori,” Mitsuki apologised sheepishly, walking over to take the dishes from the omega. “I’ll wash these for you, as an apology? Nagi, too. Come help me out.” 

“Maybe don’t make out in a common space next time,” Iori suggested, taking a seat at the dining table. He winced as he sat down, his hips protesting the utter lack of softness of the chair. Riku’s beanbag was a much more comfortable alternative. “Will Manager be picking us up later?” 

“She said she would,” Mitsuki replied. “After she picks Riku and Yamato-san up from their schedule.” 

As with Sougo, Iori felt his cheeks flush when Riku was brought up. “I see. Is it alright if I do some schoolwork before we have to leave?” 

“You’re not tired?” 

“I am, but entrance exams are at the end of the month,” Iori pointed out. It wasn’t a lie that entrance exams were coming up, which was why Iori had been tasked to tutor Tamaki in the first place. But while Tamaki wasn’t quite aiming to score well, Iori did want to land himself in a decent university to study business management. 

The main reason for Iori’s eagerness to do something, anything, though, was because he needed to distract himself. If he didn’t, he was sure that his mind would lead him back to the things he’d done during his heat. 

Mitsuki nodded in understanding. “Tell us if you need anything.” 

With a chuckle, Iori pushed himself off the chair. “Just make sure I don’t walk in on anything again.” 

Mitsuki’s groan of embarrassment made Iori snicker as he headed back to his room. 

 

--- 

 

The three watched as Tsumugi parked the car, waiting for the vehicle to come to a stop before opening the door and climbing in. “Thank you for driving us to the venue, Manager,” Mitsuki said, taking his usual seat in the back. 

Iori got in after Mitsuki, hyperaware of Riku’s gaze on him. The alpha was excited, eager, if his scent indicated anything, and Iori barely hesitated before taking the seat next to Riku. “Nanase-san,” he greeted simply, trying his best to push away any and all thoughts of the indecent things he’d imagined during the course of his heat. 

After Nagi closed the door, Tsumugi drove off towards the studio where they would be recording the show at. Yamato was seated in the front, seemingly asleep, so it was only the two couples who were seated in the back. 

“I missed you,” Riku said bluntly, biting back a smile when Iori’s cheeks turned pink. Seven days was too long to be apart from the omega, especially since they usually saw each other every single day. “I worked hard this past week!” 

“Too hard, so I heard,” Iori said, noticing how Riku deflated almost immediately. “Have you been taking care of yourself? It’s not good if you keep pushing yourself recklessly, you know that.” 

“I know,” Riku pouted, nudging Iori’s shoulder with his own. “It’d be nice if I don’t get nagged at the moment you see me. Didn't you miss me?” 

Sighing, Iori nodded. “I did. Why would I not have? I’m not sorry for nagging at you, though, because you’re not very good at taking care of yourself, Nanase-san,” Iori said honestly. When he noticed that Riku was still sulking, he slipped his hand into the alpha’s and rested his head on Riku’s shoulder. “It was a long week, wasn’t it?” 

To his relief, Riku nuzzled the top of Iori’s head fondly. He didn’t know if he’d accidentally upset Riku by implying that his health was more important than his feelings, because that wasn’t the case at all. Iori did value the fact that Riku had missed him, just as much as he had Riku. Sometimes Iori wondered if his emotions were just too intense, but then he would be reminded that it was normal, that Riku felt the exact same way about him. 

“Yeah,” Riku admitted, pressing a soft kiss to Iori’s temple. “You smell really nice. I hope you remembered to bring scent neutralisers.” 

Iori chuckled, as if he would ever forget. “I may be tired from my heat, but I’m not forgetful.” 

“Speaking of which,” Nagi piped up, and Iori groaned internally at being disturbed, “what are Re:vale? As in, are they alphas or betas?” 

“All the rumours say that Yuki-san is an alpha,” Mitsuki replied from beside the blond, one hand intertwined with Nagi’s and the other hand scrolling through his phone. “Not much about Momo-san, though. You think he’s a beta like me? Or could he actually be an alpha? The aura Momo-san gives off on shows seems pretty confident, if you ask me.” 

“Alphas, huh...” Riku mumbled, his hold on Iori’s hand subconsciously tightening. Iori raised a brow, about to voice a question of his own, when Riku continued, “Do you think they’ll be able to smell you? Since you just ended your heat this morning, and all.” 

“Jealous?” Iori teased. 

Riku frowned. “I’m just wor-” 

He broke off to cough, and Iori’s eyes widened. “Nanase-san?! Do you need your inhaler?” 

Riku shook his head, still coughing and wheezing. “I... it’s fine.” 

“You’re not fine, Riku,” Nagi said firmly. “When we get to the studio, I’ll bring you to the restroom.” 

“Focus on breathing,” Yamato called out from the front, at some point having woken up. 

Iori nodded in agreement, rubbing Riku’s back and hoping that it would be of some use. He was already releasing calming pheromones, but Riku’s coughing was still going on strong. Iori hated feeling so helpless, not being able to do anything for his alpha except watching him be in pain. But Riku was stubborn, and Iori knew that he would refuse his inhaler and worsen his condition by struggling. 

The coughing only barely stopped when they pulled into the parking lot at the studio, and then Iori was making way for Nagi to help Riku out of the car. Iori watched as the two alphas disappeared into the building, and he heaved a tired sigh. 

“He’ll be fine,” Yamato assured, patting Iori on the back. “Come on. Sou said he and Tama are already waiting inside. Nagi’ll make sure Riku’s fine.” 

“Okay,” Iori conceded, pulling out his bottle of scent neutraliser and spraying it over his scent glands. He'd been hoping that they would have time for Riku to scent him, give the alpha some peace of mind, but that didn’t look like it was going to be possible. He could only hope Riku managed to calm his attack down before they began filming. 

Chapter Text

“Yuki, can I do it?” 

“That’s not nice of you, Momo. You'll scare your cute kouhai away, you know.” 

“But they’ll be so fun to tease!” 

“Well, if you say so.” 

“You’re the best, darling!” 

 

--- 

 

“Good job everyone! It seems like recording will start on time.” 

“Understood,” Sougo replied. The six of them were gathered in the lobby of the studio, Tsumugi having just returned from a quick discussion with the producer of NEXT Re:vale, and they were supposed to greet Re:vale before getting ready for the show. 

Looking around, Sougo frowned. “Speaking of which, Riku-kun isn’t here. Do you know where he is?” 

“He went to the bathroom with Nagi-san. It seems like Riku-san’s condition has been worsening more readily as of late...” the manager trailed off, wearing a frown not at all unlike Sougo’s. They could all see how poorly Riku’s health had been faring in the recent months, and it’d gotten especially bad during the past week when Iori had been in heat. 

“There’s something I wish to discuss in regards to that, before he returns,” Iori said. He wore a neutral expression, refusing to let his worry for his alpha show on his face. “Nanase-san’s physical condition deteriorates whenever he is stressed, correct? And isn’t there something that could very easily become a major cause of stress?” 

“Major, you say? Wouldn’t that be Iori-san?” Tsumugi asked. 

Iori stared blankly at the beta before reaching over to pinch her cheek. “What are you trying to say.” 

“Ah! My cheek-” 

Truth was, Iori knew exactly what Tsumugi was referring to. The attack that Riku had had on the drive over had been proof enough that Riku was stressing himself out because of Iori. The fact that Iori would have made sure to conceal his scent didn’t matter, because Riku would still worry. 

That, and Iori’s heat had just ended hours ago. Riku was probably also worrying about whether or not Iori was overworking himself. 

And he had every right to worry, of course he did. Iori was, while not officially mated to Riku, his omega after all. Even if Riku wasn’t exactly a typical alpha, more easy-going than most, he was still possessive and protective of what belonged to him. Iori didn’t really mind it, except that Riku was overreacting and working himself up into an attack over something that wasn’t much of an issue in the first place. 

Iori couldn’t deny that he was tired, his muscles sore and aching like they always did after a heat, but there wasn’t anything they could do about that. Work came first; Iori could rest later at night. 

“What I was referring to was our senpai, Re:vale,” the omega clarified, earning himself a sceptical look from Tsumugi. He didn’t pay her any heed, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that she was right, and Riku was stressed because of Iori. “They could easily be seen as intimidating people.” 

“I was thinking the same thing. Like what if they ignore us when we go to greet them, or what if they’re super scary?” Mitsuki added. “I tried to reassure myself by searching them up online, but all I got was stuff like about how they have nasty tempers or they don’t get along with others...” 

Iori shrugged; he’d done the same, and had gotten the same results that Mitsuki had. “Re:vale have been consistently winning, so things like common courtesy and greeting others might be trivial to them.” 

Tamaki stopped eating his pudding. “Like how there wasn’t a gift for us?” 

“Maybe they didn’t need feel the need to give us anything...” Sougo reasoned, quietly taking said pudding away from the alpha and covering it before putting it into his bag. Tamaki clicked his tongue in annoyance, and Sougo simply shook his head disapprovingly. “I’ll let you eat the rest after our schedule.” 

“W-what should we do?” Tsumugi asked, eyes wide in worry. 

“Even if those rumours are true, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Yamato told them, sounding awfully nonchalant about the issue. “But, just saying, according to the internet, me and Mitsu are in a power struggle for the leader position. As such, our group is still in a dangerous situation, even to this day.” 

Mitsuki blinked at the leader, briefly wondering if Yamato had a screw loose. “Yeah, no.” 

“Also according to the internet: the members of MEZZO hang out together out on their days off and get along just swell,” he added, raising a brow at the couple. 

It wasn’t that they didn’t hang out with each other on their days off – in the dorm, in each other’s rooms. They didn’t go out together very often, apart from that one time that Tamaki had brought Sougo to the orphanage. But that had been planned out long ago, and it was a one-off thing. 

The couple did want to go on a proper date outside, but they never could agree on where to go or what to do. It was expected, with how different their personalities were. If Sougo wanted to go to a music store, Tamaki would want to go to the arcade. If Tamaki wanted to watch an action movie, Sougo would want to relax at a cafe and read a book. 

Sometimes Sougo wondered if he should give in to Tamaki, go along with what the alpha wanted to do, but Tamaki would frown and tell him that he should do what he wanted to do. “Don’t do things just because people tell you to,” Tamaki always said, “one day we’ll find something that we both want to do together, alright?” 

And, well, Tamaki wasn’t wrong. Eventually, there had to be something that they both wanted to do on a date together. In fact, even when they hung out in the dorm on their days off, the two generally did their own thing, Tamaki playing his games and Sougo catching up on the news. 

“Nope,” Tamaki fired back instantly. 

“Not at all,” Sougo agreed. “I mean, we do get along...” 

Tamaki huffed, eyeing Sougo’s bag pointedly. “Not if I don’t get my pudding back.” 

It was all Yamato could do to sigh. “I don’t think Re:vale are bad people, but just in case, let’s all be on guard, alright?” 

“I-I will proceed with utmost caution! I will practice how to exchange business cards formally, before going forth!” Tsumugi told them, and Iori wanted to tell her that no, that certainly wasn’t what Yamato had meant in regards to being on guard. 

But he could smell Riku’s scent getting closer to them, now, and the omega turned around in time to see the familiar heads of red and blond hair approaching them. “Sorry for the wait, everyone!” Riku apologised sheepishly, in a much better condition than before. 

“You’re feeling better now, Nanase-san?” 

Riku nodded. “Yeah. Sorry for worrying you.” 

“We found Re:vale’s waiting room!” Nagi exclaimed. “Is it okay if we open their door with a bang?” 

Mitsuki’s eyes widened, and he grabbed onto his boyfriend’s arm, as if Nagi was about to run off and do just that. “No, no, no!” 

Iori looked at Nagi, mustering the most serious expression he could. “We must all be in order and knock on their door with all the politeness in the world, understood?” 

“A-are Re:vale scary people?” Riku asked unsurely, and Iori let his serious mask crumble. 

“Not at all,” he assured, wondering if his voice sounded too forced. The last thing Iori wanted was to put any unnecessary stress on the alpha, especially since he knew that Riku was likely still worrying over whether Iori’s status as an omega would be found out. “They’re not scary at all. Now, now. Please relax.” 

“Could you maybe not talk like you’re trying to hypnotize me?” Riku wrinkled his nose distastefully. “I’m fine now, I promise. Stop tiptoeing around me like I’m going to have another attack. I’m not that fragile.” 

Tsumugi glanced at the couple, well aware that they were about to start arguing again. “Everyone, I’m sure you’re all aware of this already, but let’s just go over it again just in case,” she piped up, making sure that their attention was on her before continuing. “Re:vale’s Momo-san. With a bright, sunny disposition, he’s quite popular and appears very frequently on variety shows.” 

“All the shows Momo-san appear on are full of cheer and really fun! I’m sure he’s nice and a really good person,” Riku commented. 

Iori sighed, wondering how it was that Riku was so naive. “Are you aware of the fact that your extremely sharp-tongued twin brother is often called a modern-day angel on television?” 

“Well, Tenn-nii is an angel!” 

“This brocon...” Iori mumbled. If only Nanase-san knew about that night in Okinawa. 

Continuing on, Yuki-san. With a calm and collected atmosphere about him, Yuki-san is a skilled actor and has received much praise for his work.” 

“Yuki-san sure is cool! I cried when I watched his first movie, that one historical drama with Chiba Shizuo-san!” Mitsuki gushed, turning to the only other actor in their group. “That one was so good! His acting ability puts most actors to shame. Did you also watch that one, Yamato-san?” 

Yamato’s answer was immediate. “No.” 

“Alright...” Tsumugi looked at the boys apprehensively. They'd somehow found their way to Re:vale’s waiting room, and were now standing in front of it. “Let us embark and go say our greetings to Re:vale!” 

“Yeah!” 

“It sounds like we’re going on a raid,” Yamato muttered to himself, watching as Tsumugi raised her hand and knocked twice on the door. 

 

--- 

 

“Oh, they’re here!” Momo whispered excitedly, looking back at Yuki. “Ready, Yuki?” 

Yuki chuckled, expression clearly amused. “Readier than you are, Momo.” 

Momo pouted, walking away from the door where he’d been eavesdropping on IDOLiSH7 and returning to stand beside his partner. “Okay, bring it on!” 

The door clicked open, and Tsumugi stepped into the waiting room. “Please excuse the intrusion. This is IDOLiSH7, from Takanashi Productions. I am their manager, Takanashi Tsumugi,” the beta greeted, bowing fully to the duo. “We look forward to working with you today!” 

“Oh?” 

“IDOLiSH7?” 

The rest of the group filed into the room, looking equally tense, maybe with the exception of Yamato and Tamaki. Momo looked them over, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes that he was sure only Yuki could recognise. “Hey, can someone get me juice?” 

“Ugh...” Yuki groaned, muffling a yawn behind his hand. “I’m sleepy...” 

Tsumugi’s gaze darted between the two idols. Oh boy, it’s Re:vale- 

Riku’s teeth worried at his bottom lips. They’re so intense! 

This is bad. Iori thought, trying to be discreet as he glanced over at Riku. The worry that the alpha was emanating now was different from when he’d been worrying about Iori being found out. They don’t seem to be in a good mood. Perhaps the rumours about them being scary people were true…? 

“So, what do you want?” Yuki asked bluntly, looking Tsumugi right in the eye. 

“A-ah, um, this is IDOLiSH7 from Takanashi Productions.” 

“Ah,” Yuki said, a look of understanding flashing across his face. “The group that won against TRIGGER.” 

“Hey, you over there,” Momo said suddenly. “Come here for a bit.” 

Riku nearly jumped in surprise at being called out, pointing to himself with wide eyes. “Oh, me?” 

“Please wait!” Iori cut in, not caring if he was unintentionally being rude to Momo. He stepped in front of Riku protectively, and it was almost ironic how Iori was the one looking out for the alpha. 

“Iori!” Riku hissed, frowning at the omega’s back. The last thing he wanted was for Iori to have to shield him from Re:vale, when neither of them knew what exactly it was that they wanted. If they did turn out to both be alphas and wanted to do something to Iori, then, his health be damned, Riku would make sure to protect the omega. 

“If there’s anything you need, I’ll answer to it.” 

“Yeah, sure. You’ll work,” Momo shrugged, looking bored. “Then, a quick word, before we start filming.” 

“Yes?” 

“Your performance at Black or White...” 

Iori braced himself for some sort of insult or reprimand, although he personally thought that they did amazingly well at Black or White. Re:vale was the grand winner, and maybe there’d been something unsatisfactory about IDOLiSH7’s performance that they’d wanted to talk about. 

The situation he was currently in reminded Iori of how he and the Pitagoras trio had been subjected to Tenn’s lecture all those months ago. He certainly hoped that wouldn’t be the case now. 

“...was super amazing!” 

Iori blinked once, and then a second time, wondering if he’d heard Momo correctly. “...Huh?” 

“Dude, I was so moved! Your singing and your dancing were both just so good!” Momo gushed. He didn’t give any of them a chance to process his words, simply continuing with what was soon becoming a monologue. “TRIGGER was great and all, but IDOLiSH7 was the best! I’ve been wanting to meet everybody ever since then! But you were all talking about how scary Re:vale was, so I couldn’t help but play a little prank on you all! So, we tried to make ourselves as scary as possible. Did it work? Did we surprise you?” 

“U-um, uh...” Tsumugi stammered, at a complete loss as to how she should react. If Iori wasn’t just as shocked as the beta was, he would’ve laughed at her and teased her for losing her composure so easily. 

But he was just as taken aback by Momo’s sudden torrent of words, and he couldn’t even react to the praise that Re:vale’s centre had just lavished on IDOLiSH7. 

Thankfully, Yuki seemed to realise exactly how utterly confused the two were, chuckling and putting a hand on Momo’s arm to stop him short. “Now, now, Momo. If you say it all in one go you’ll overwhelm her,” he chided gently. “And, well, all of them really.” 

Momo pouted at Yuki. “But I just have so much to say!” he whined. 

Yuki chuckled, again, and patted Momo’s head as if to appease him. “Slowly, alright? Sorry for startling you all. Let me introduce myself properly – I’m Yuki from Re:vale. I look forward to working with you all today. We won’t be picking on you or anything, so relax and be at ease.” 

Nodding furiously in agreement, Momo added, “Yup, yup! Just pretend you’re in Yuki’s house or something!” 

My house?” Yuki questioned incredulously. 

“Wow, look at this sofa, it’s huge! But this cushion is tiny?! You can only fit an ear on it!” 

“As if!” 

“Anyways, I guess what we’re trying to say is, relax!” Momo concluded with a grin. 

For the third time, Yuki let out a fond chuckle. “That’s Momo for you.” 

Mitsuki leaned towards his boyfriend, making sure to keep his voice low as he said, “They... they seem to be really good people.” 

Nagi, on the other hand, was less concerned with making sure he wasn’t heard. Mitsuki winced as the alpha exclaimed, “As expected of Japan’s top stars!” 

“Momo and Yuki...” Tamaki murmured, brows furrowed in thought. Sougo glanced at the alpha, about to ask what Tamaki was talking about, when Tamaki’s eyes suddenly lit up. “How about Momorin and Yukirin?” 

Sougo paled. “Tamaki-kun!” 

“It’s fine!” Momo assured with an amused laugh. “Momorin, huh? That’s the same as this juice. It’s really good, so this is my go-to drink. Ah, you can take the extras!” 

“Thank you very much,” Riku said gratefully, taking the proffered bottle of juice from Momo. “I look forward to working with you today!” 

“Yes. I look forward to it.” 

 

--- 

 

They'd gathered in the recording studio, and Re:vale was getting ready to record their performance. 

By the side, Riku said, “They were really easy to talk to! I can’t wait to film with them!” 

Iori glanced at his boyfriend, wondering why it was that Riku didn’t seem to completely be at ease. Is he still worrying about whether the members Re:vale are alphas? Riku may have been able to fool everyone else, but he certainly wasn’t able to fool Iori. 

For the time being, though, Iori opted not to voice his concerns aloud. Riku was doing fine, at least for now, and Iori didn’t want to hover around Riku. He knew fully well how Riku felt about appearing weak, and it probably wasn’t how he wanted to make a first impression on Re:vale. 

Mitsuki nodded, heaving a small sigh of relief. “I’m so relieved! Ah, it looks like they’re going start recording Re:vale’s performance. We can study them since we’re up close!” he exclaimed excitedly, already finding a nice spot beside some of the cameramen to watch their senpai. 

“Let’s start!” the director shouted. 

“Yes sir!” 

The two members of Re:vale got into their respective positions, and then the music started playing. 

What had originally been a carefree atmosphere quickly turned into a serious one, and all eyes were fixed on Re:vale as they sang and danced. It was in that moment that they remembered that, in spite of Re:vale’s easy-going and friendly nature, they were the grand winners of Black or White. 

The charisma that Re:vale exuded during their performance left even Mitsuki at a loss for words, and the only words the beta could find were, “Amazing... they’re so intense!” 

“The two of them are so cool, just watching them is fun!” Riku agreed in awe. “They really are top idols… they’re amazing!” 

“As expected of top idols. Without a doubt, they possess excellent technique in both singing and dancing, but there’s more than that – they are entertainers,” Iori said. He couldn’t help but feel that Riku was getting even more stressed out than before. The alpha wore an amazed smile on his face, but Iori knew better. 

Being the centre of IDOLiSH7 involved a lot of pressure, and at times Iori wished Riku didn’t have to be the one bearing such a burden, but there wasn’t anyone else who could be their centre. There had never been a shadow of doubt in Iori’s mind that Riku was the most suited candidate for the position of IDOLiSH7’s centre, the only one who could possibly take on such a role. 

“Their expressions, their mannerisms, their timing… They’re mesmerizing, and it’s as if we’re watching a movie... Those two are true stars.” 

They watched the rest of Re:vale’s performance in silence, enjoying it and trying to learn as much from them as possible. Throughout the entire duration of the performance, Iori could sense Riku getting more and more nervous, and soon it was their turn to record their performance for the show. 

Re:vale ended off their performance without a hitch, and Momo gave IDOLiSH7 a thumbs-up as he and Yuki stepped off the stage. “I’m looking forward to your performance!” Momo told them, and Iori wondered why he’d had to say that. If anything, it only served to make Riku more nervous than he already was. 

Even as they got into their positions, Iori could tell that Riku was tense. Iori didn’t expect him to not be tense, with so many things weighing on the alpha’s mind. He just hoped that they would be able to finish recording their performance quickly. 

Those hopes were dashed, exactly eighteen seconds later, when Riku took a step in the wrong direction and ended up stumbling into Yamato. The music was cut off, and Riku grimaced as he was helped up by Nagi. “Sorry, Yamato-san,” he apologised, receiving two quick pats on the head from the beta. 

“It’s fine. Be careful, okay?” 

Riku nodded, and then they started the second take. 

The next three takes were, while less disastrous than the first, evidently below their usual standard. Riku wasn’t able to bring out the best of his vocal abilities, and the director knew it too. He stopped each take around the midway point, shaking his head in disappointment and telling them to redo it. And with each time that they had to start over, Riku got more upset at himself. 

Iori snuck glances at Riku when he could, trying to be as discreet as possible, and they returned to their starting positions for the fifth take. 

The intro to MEMORiES MELODiES started, for the fifth time, and for the first verse they seemed to be doing fine. Riku barely managed his part, but they managed to make it to the second verse and chorus without stopping. 

Then Riku faltered at the bridge of the song, his voice not coming out the way he wanted it to, and they had to end the take as an NG. 

By now Riku was on the verge of an attack, hunched over as he tried to catch his breath. From beside him, Iori could hear Riku wheezing, even if only faintly, and Iori frowned. He put a hand on Riku’s shoulder only to get it shaken off by the alpha. “S-sorry,” Riku apologised, looking the director straight in the eye. “Once more, please!” 

“I knew it. You’re not in your best condition, Nanase-san,” Iori said, as if they couldn’t already tell. While Iori usually admired Riku’s persistent determination to get things done, now he was just plain annoyed because of it. Iori didn’t like seeing Riku in discomfort, just as much as Riku didn’t like to see Iori in the same situation. “Your voice is straining…” 

Sougo came over to where the two were standing, brows creased in concern for their centre. “Filming got extended, too... Are you okay, Riku-kun?” 

When he put a hand on Riku’s shoulder, the alpha didn’t shake it off the way he’d done to Iori. It made Iori incredibly frustrated; why couldn’t Riku just rely on him for once in a while? But as much as Iori would’ve liked to knock some sense into the alpha, his alpha, they were in the middle of a filming, and Iori was still so tired from his week-long heat. 

The director let out a long sigh. “This is the fifth take,” he scolded, jerking his thumb at the two idols who’d long ago been done with their performance. “Re:vale is waiting for you to finish.” 

“I apologise.” 

“If you put that much pressure on him, he’s not going to sing any better,” Yuki chided, arms crossed and brow raised, as if challenging the director to argue with him. 

Momo hummed in agreement. “Don’t mind us. If you’re tired, then how about we take a break?” 

“But, that...” Riku trailed off when Iori shot him a sharp look. He sighed softly in defeat. “I don’t want to cause any more trouble for you guys on your own show... You guys are our senpai, too…” 

“Even more reason for us to help out our kouhai – this is where we step in as senpai,” Momo said, turning to the filming crew with a bright smile. “Excuse me! Let’s take a quick break!” 

It was clear that the director was reluctant to accede to Momo’s request, but he gave in eventually. “Gosh, Momo-chan. You're too soft on them.” 

“Sorry, sorry!” Momo apologised half-heartedly. “I’ll make it up to you sometime!” 

The filming crew scattered to take a break, as did the rest of IDOLiSH7. and Re:vale approached Riku. The redhead reminded Iori of a kicked puppy and, in spite of himself, Iori felt the corner of his lip tug upwards. 

Cute. 

 

--- 

 

“I’m sorry...” 

“Don’t apologise.” Yuki grabbed a cup and filled it with tea before pushing it into Riku’s hands. “You should drink something warm.” 

Riku perked up, taking a small sip of the tea. “Thank you very much!” Then he promptly deflated once more. “How do I make it up to you...” 

“It’s alright,” Yuki chuckled, waving Riku off before he could apologise again. “But in return, when you guys have kouhaimake sure to help them out too.” 

Momo nodded. “Yup, yup. Just sing in that great voice of yours like usual! I look forward to it!” 

From where he was standing, and eavesdropping on their conversation, Iori sighed. He knew Momo meant no harm, but the last thing Riku needed was for more people to pin their expectations on him. 

To Iori’s relief. Yuki thought the same, glancing at his partner with an incredulous look. “Momo, don’t put pressure on him.” 

Wincing visibly, Momo exclaimed, “Argh, sorry! I didn’t mean to. Relax! Should I make a funny face or something?” 

“I’ll be okay,” Riku assured with a small chuckle. “Thank you very much.” 

“If there’s anything you need, feel free to let us know! Momo-chan will do his best to get it for you!” 

“There’s actually something I’ve been wanting to ask,” Riku admitted, glancing back at Iori to see that he was discussing something with Yamato. He lowered his voice, leaning closer to the two before voicing his question. “Are Yuki-san and Momo-san alphas?” 

“...huh?” was the response he got from the duo, and Riku grimaced. I hope I didn’t offend them... 

“What makes you ask that?” Momo questioned. “Don’t tell me you’re an om-” 

“No!” Riku denied, far too quickly and too loudly for the others not to notice. Iori looked over immediately, as did the rest of the IDOLiSH7 members, and the centre offered his teammates a sheepish smile. “I-it’s nothing! Don’t mind me!” 

Iori, as usual, wasn’t the least bit convinced. “Are you sure, Nanase-san?” 

Frantically nodding, Riku tried to herd Re:vale to a corner of the studio that was further from everyone. “I’ll talk to you about it later, I promise!” 

Riku waited for Iori to sigh and turn back to Sougo before he repeated his question. “So... you’re not?” 

“Yuki is,” Momo confirmed. “Momo-chan here’s just a plain old beta.” 

“You’re not just a plain old beta, Momo,” Yuki chuckled. “I wouldn’t be here without you. But yes, to answer your question, Riku-kun. I am an alpha. If you’re worried about me making a move on an omega, though, then let me just assure you that I won’t. Do you have someone important to you, Riku-kun?” 

Riku hesitated, wondering if he should be revealing this much to people he’d just met. But Re:vale seemed trustworthy enough, and hopefully Iori would never find out how much Riku was telling the duo about his relationship with the omega. “...I do,” Riku replied honestly. “They’ve done a lot for me, and I want to be able to protect them.” 

The smile that Yuki offered was warm. “I have someone important to me too,” he said. Riku noticed the way Momo’s smile faltered, for barely a moment, before the beta was smiling again. He couldn’t help but feel that this smile was forced, nothing as genuine as the smile that Momo had previously been wearing. “That’s why I understand how you feel. We alphas are protective of what’s ours, aren’t we?” 

“Yeah,” Riku agreed, thinking of Iori and of what he was willing to do to make sure Iori stayed safe. If it came down to it, Riku had no doubt that he would fight tooth and nail with Yuki, or any of the alphas in the room, to protect the omega. “I guess we are.” 

Chapter Text

Iori looked up from the papers he was looking through, raising a brow at the alpha standing in front of him. “What is it?” 

The words came out harsher than Iori intended for them to. He didn’t mean to be rude, although admittedly he was still extremely frustrated by how Riku had brushed off his concern earlier. He chalked it up to being tired from his heat; Iori was usually better at controlling his emotions. 

“Can we talk for a bit? We still have some time before we start filming again.” 

Sighing, Iori set the papers down and nodded. “Okay. Here, or...?” 

Riku didn’t reply, simply led the way out of the studio. He didn’t look back to see whether or not Iori was following him – he didn’t need to, because he knew Iori would understand his intentions even without him voicing them aloud. 

Iori already had an inkling of where Riku was leading him to, so he wasn’t at all surprised to see that they were, as usual, standing in front of the entrance to the restroom. The omega entered first, waiting until he heard the click of the lock before turning to face Riku. “Make it quick. We don’t have a lot of time.” 

“I’m sorry.” 

“What for?” 

Riku pursed his lips. “For worrying you.” 

“That’s not why I’m upset,” Iori retorted with a small sigh, “and you know that.” 

With a sigh of his own, Riku nodded. “Fine. I do know that,” the alpha acknowledged. “I didn’t mean to brush you off just now. I know you’re just worried about me, and you have every right to be.” 

When Iori didn’t reply, Riku took a step towards the omega, glad that Iori wasn’t recoiling away from him. He walked until he was standing right in front of Iori, cupping Iori’s cheek with his hand and studying his face. 

Iori wrinkled his nose; he’d never been a fan of being scrutinised like this. It made him want to squirm, having Riku focus all his attention on him so intensely. It was all Iori could do to stay in place, albeit pointedly avoiding Riku’s gaze. 

“You’re really tired, aren’t you?” Riku asked, and Iori nodded, giving in and letting himself relax into Riku’s touch. Of course Riku would be able to tell, be it from his scent or from the bags under his eyes. Being in heat generally meant that Iori didn’t get a lot of quality sleep. 

“Really, really, tired.” 

“I’m sorry,” Riku repeated, leaning in to place a quick kiss on the corner of Iori’s lips. “I’ll make sure to get things done within the next take, then we can finish filming quicker and get home, okay?" 

“I just want to sleep,” Iori admitted softly. “Are you sure you’re fine now, though?” 

Riku chuckled and nodded. “Re:vale assured me that they wouldn’t do anything to any omegas,” he said, letting his hand fall away from Iori’s cheek and wrapping an arm around the back of Iori’s neck. 

He pulled the omega towards him, nuzzling Iori fondly and biting back a smile when he noticed Iori’s face heat up slightly. He felt bad for teasing Iori like this when his heat had just ended, but Riku was insecure sometimes. 

He wasn’t the most reliable alpha, and he was always making Iori worry about him. There were times, many times in fact, that Riku wondered if Iori was better off finding another alpha. Being fated didn’t mean that they had to be together – there were many people who’d fallen in love with people who weren’t their fated partners. 

Although, granted, those people generally hadn’t met their fated partner yet, and they likely had never been in a relationship with said partner. Still, Riku did wonder about the what-ifs. Iori was too good for him after all. 

Which was why it was always assuring to see that Iori still blushed at as small an action as a nuzzle to the cheek. Pulling back, Riku asked, “Shall we?” 

 

--- 

 

“Mitsuki, Mitsuki! Can you come here for a bit?” 

Mitsuki had been in the middle of pulling out snacks that he’d made prior to leaving the dorm, because Nagi had requested them and Mitsuki just couldn’t say no. Looking up from his bag, the beta turned to where Momo was. “Me!?” he asked in disbelief, all but chucking his bag at his boyfriend. “Yes sir!” 

Nagi watched as Mitsuki nearly ran over to Momo, a pout evident on his face. “Oh, my Mitsuki...” 

From beside him, Yamato snorted. “I’ll find those snacks for you, alright? Momo-san seems to have something important to tell Mitsu. Don't disturb them; it’s a good chance for Mitsu to learn more about hosting,” he said, sifting through Mitsuki’s bag and managing to spot the lunchbox inside. “You made him make sandwiches as a snack? Ham and cheese sandwichesWhat are you, five?” 

“Hey!” 

Mitsuki glanced back at his boyfriend and their leader, wondering what was with the ruckus. “Sorry about them, Momo-san. They're not usually this misbehaved.” 

“It’s fine! You’d be surprised to know how childish Yuki can be,” Momo said, snickering when Mitsuki’s eyes widened in shock. After all, not many people knew about that side of Yuki; Momo could probably count them on one hand. “Anyway! I wanted to talk to you about the next segment. It’s a True-or-False quiz thing, right? And you know how we’re supposed to lead the conversation?” 

Mitsuki nodded. He'd read the programme schedule over and over again last night. “Yes.” 

“The script says that the emcee part is mine, but I think you should do it instead.” 

“Huh!? This sudden!?” 

Momo couldn’t help but laugh at Mitsuki’s reaction. “You came here to promote your show, right? You ought to show the viewers all the interesting bits about IDOLiSH7! You’ve all worked so hard to get your own show. 

“There’s still the issue of FSC, but other companies might take a peek at this show. If you guys do well, you’ll be flooded with work!” he said, looking extremely proud of himself. 

Mitsuki’s jaw dropped, and he gaped openly at Momo. “FSC... you even know about that?” 

This time, Momo’s laugh was a haughty one. “Don’t underestimate Momo-chan’s database!” he exclaimed proudly. From the other side of the studio, Momo heard Yuki fail to stifle his laughter. “I even know what colour that CM star’s underwear is.” 

“Underwear!?” Mitsuki’s eyes shot back to Nagi, wondering if his boyfriend had heard his exclamation. Judging from the way Nagi was putting down his sandwich now, Mitsuki was rather certain that the blond had heard it. 

“Just kidding! Did you perhaps imagine it?” Momo teased. 

“D-definitely not!” 

Even without looking, Mitsuki knew that his boyfriend was walking over to them. 

“It’ll be okay! Shimooka-san and everyone have been singing high praises about you guys, so I’m giving IDOLiSH7 my seal of approval too!” Momo assured with a grin. 

“But, what if I mess up...” 

“If you mess up…” Momo trailed off, humming in thought. “Laugh! Getting angry or crying won’t do you any good, so it’s best to laugh! Cause we’re cute idols!” 

“That’s right!” Nagi echoed, throwing his hand over Mitsuki’s shoulder. The beta winced at the loudness of his boyfriend’s voice, knowing fully well that Nagi was being possessive. He hoped Momo was a beta; something told Mitsuki that Nagi would not be against using his scent, or voice, to challenge Momo. He just hoped Nagi was professional enough not to do it. “Our Mitsuki is the cutest, isn’t he?” 

“Oi, Nagi,” Mitsuki hissed. “Quit it.” 

“He is!” Momo agreed cheerily. He tilted his head to the side slightly, a curious look on his face. “Say, you two seem awfully close. Are you two together, maybe?” 

Mitsuki’s eyes nearly doubled in size, and he roughly shoved his boyfriend off himself. “What!? No! Whatever gave you that idea, Momo-san!?” 

“So... you are, then?” Momo asked, chuckling when Mitsuki blushed and shook his head furiously. “It’s alright. I won’t snitch on you guys. I just thought it was really cute how Nagi got jealous because of me. I may not look it, but I’m really good at keeping secrets!” 

“You don’t think it’s wrong? For two idols in the same group to be in a relationship, I mean,” Mitsuki asked unsurely, glancing around nervously to make sure that nobody could overhear them. Everyone else seemed to be preoccupied, and for that the beta was grateful. 

With a grin, Momo shook his head. “That would make me a hypocrite, so no, I don’t think that.” 

“Eh?” 

It took Mitsuki a moment to process Momo’s words and the smile he wore, and then his eyes widened once more. “You and-!” 

“Shhh,” Momo put a finger on Mitsuki’s lips. “It’s a secret, okay? Nagi, too. Don't let the cat out of the bag. You don’t have to worry about me making a move on Mitsuki. He's not really my type. I prefer an ikemen like my darling!” 

“But Mitsuki is so cute!” Nagi protested. 

Mitsuki clicked his tongue in annoyance, jabbing Nagi’s ribs with his elbow. “Make up your mind already. Do you want Momo-san to like me or not?” 

No!”  

“Then stop complaining!” the beta huffed. “Thanks for telling us, Momo-san. We'll keep your secret.” 

“Of course! If you want, we can even go on double dates.” 

“Yes, please!” 

“Oh god, no.” 

 

--- 

 

Yuki tugged on Tamaki’s cheek, eliciting an annoyed grunt from the younger. “It really is true,” the alpha murmured, poking and prodding Tamaki’s cheek in an attempt to get a bigger reaction from the younger. It didn’t work. “This kid doesn’t smile at all.”' 

“Huh? What is it?” Tamaki questioned, swatting Yuki’s hand away. “Also, stop touching my face.” 

“Tamaki-kun, you mustn't be rude to our senpai!” Sougo scolded, bowing apologetically to Yuki. “I’m really sorry for his behaviour. I’ll do my best to teach him proper manners.” 

“Who needs you to teach me manners?” Tamaki grumbled. “I just want my pudding, dammit.” 

“Tamaki-kun!” 

Yuki chuckled at their interaction, finding the duo exceptionally interesting. “It’s not a bad thing. I didn’t smile either – people are only going to keep on making dull shows if you laugh despite being bored,” he told them, poking Tamaki’s cheek once more. 

Tamaki grimaced, pushing Yuki’s hand away with more force than before. Sougo sucked in a sharp breath. “I said, stop touching my face!” he growled. 

Sougo winced at Tamaki’s scent – it was never pleasant to be around the alpha when he was as ticked off as this. Before he could try to calm Tamaki down, though, Yuki removed his finger from Tamaki’s cheek and smiled slyly. “Then, in exchange, you have to make it interesting when things get boring.” 

Tamaki’s frown softened, although only slightly, and he asked, “...me?” 

Instead of answering his question, though, Yuki simply shot another question back at the younger. “Do you like being bored?” 

“I hate it.” 

“Then make things interesting for yourself. This is our garden – do as you like.” 

“Ah, Yuki-san...” Sougo tried to cut in, but Tamaki only shot him a look. Even if Sougo had once stood up to Tamaki when he was actively using his alpha scent to get him to submit, that had been back when the omega had been on suppressants. 

Now, it was all he could do to hang his head and worry at his lower lip with his teeth. He hated being unable to speak up just because Tamaki didn’t want him to; Tamaki didn’t resort to using his alpha status on Sougo very often, but occasionally he would be more annoyed than usual. Yuki’s provocation only made Tamaki’s already bad mood worsen, and Sougo happened to be on the receiving end of it today. 

“So, it’s okay if I do fun things?” Tamaki clarified. 

“Of course. If we have fun on our side of the camera, it’ll reach the viewers too. “ 

“But...” Tamaki sent a glance in Sougo’s direction, “I’m always told that I got to do things properly.” 

“Being proper and polite to those around you and being nothing more than a passive viewer are two very different things,” Yuki pointed out. “See, if we wanted someone well-behaved, we wouldn’t have called for you. Give us a thrill. Make things exciting. We want to see the Yotsuba Tamaki that’s cooler than everyone else. Make things fun for us, and for your sister watching on the other side of the TV.” 

At the mention of his sister, Tamaki stiffened. “You know about Aya?” 

“Everyone knows that you became an idol to look for your sister,” Yuki replied with a shrug. “Should I not know about her? It's better if more people can keep an eye out for her, isn’t it?” 

“I never said it was bad,” Tamaki huffed. “If Yukirin hears about Aya, you have to tell me, okay?” 

Yuki hummed in thought. “Only if you promise not to use your alpha status over others.” 

Sougo’s head snapped up, and he looked at Yuki with wide eyes. “Eh?” 

At the same time, Tamaki asked, “What are you talking about?” 

“Let me rephrase myself: don’t bully omegas just because you’re an alpha, Tamaki-kun.” 

“What does that have to do with Yukirin?” he questioned, visibly irritated. 

"Nothing. Just,” Yuki leaned into Tamaki’s face, offering the younger a small smile, “I don’t like it. Oh, but don’t worry. I’m not going to steal Sougo-kun from you. Wouldn’t want Momo to get jealous now.” 

Before Tamaki could even reply, Yuki turned and walked off. Tamaki watched him leave, disbelief written all over his features, and he turned to Sougo. He didn’t manage to get a word out before Sougo, too, was standing up and walking away. “Souchan, wait!” 

Sougo glanced back at his boyfriend, lips pursed and brows furrowed. “What?” he snapped. “If you’re just going to tell me what to do again, Tamaki-kun, I’d suggest you save your breath.” 

Tamaki was left to gape at Sougo as the omega left, and even from a distance Tamaki could tell that he was furious. Tamaki’s own anger dissipated, and he let out a frustrated sigh, running his hand through his hair and wondering why he always messed up. 

Sure, he had been annoyed at Sougo for taking his pudding away, and he had wanted Sougo to stop butting into his conversation with Yuki, but he certainly hadn’t intended to piss Sougo off to such an extent. It seemed like only a while ago that Sougo had finally gotten over the incident with his fans outside the office; even now, Tamaki didn’t understand why Sougo had been upset. 

Still, Tamaki knew that he was in the wrong, at least for using his alpha influence to get Sougo to keep quiet. He of all people knew best how much Sougo had gone through when he’d been younger. Being surrounded by family members who were mostly alphas couldn’t have been pleasant, even before Sougo had presented as an omega. Tamaki could only imagine how much worse it’d gotten after that. 

And yet, Tamaki had been insensitive enough to oppress him with his alpha scent. 

But Sougo was talking to Yamato now, looking troubled as he spoke to the leader, and Tamaki noticed Sougo’s scent shift from angry to disappointed. His own shoulders slumped, and Tamaki made a mental note to properly apologise to Sougo after they were done recording for the day. 

 

--- 

 

“Now, back to business!” 

“Okay! Riku, are you feeling okay?” Momo asked, earning an affirmative nod from the alpha. 

“Yes! I’m fine!” 

“Alright! Here’s to another fun night with Re:vale!” 

“Sorry if we keep you up all night long.” 

“Yeah! Let’s all do our best and make everyone happy! I look forward to working with you all!” 

Their sixth take of MEMORiES MELODiES was, thankfully, the last one. Riku managed to complete the song without a hitch, although Iori knew that the alpha could still perform better. But they had spent enough time redoing the performance already, so they quickly moved on to the talk show section of the programme. 

It was easy to get into the mood of the discussion topics when Momo and Mitsuki were leading the flow, and the hour seemed to fly by. Before they knew it, filming had finally ended for the day. 

The moment the cameras were turned off, Sougo was excusing himself from the studio. 

Tamaki frowned as the omega walked out, already getting up from his seat to follow after him. “Oi, Souchan,” he called out, clicking his tongue in annoyance when Sougo didn’t respond. 

The others watched as Tamaki, too, left the studio, and Mitsuki heaved a soft sigh. It wasn’t unlike the couple to argue, but for it to happen in front of Re:vale wasn’t exactly acceptable. But what’s done was done, and there wasn’t anything they could really do about it. “I hope they manage to work things out.” 

Tamaki sped up his pace, catching up to Sougo and putting a hand on the omega’s shoulder. “Wait.” 

“No.” Sougo’s reply was curt, and Tamaki sighed as Sougo shrugged his hand off. “I don’t want to hear it. Just leave me alone for a bit. Please.” 

“I won’t,” Tamaki said simply, following Sougo into IDOLiSH7’s waiting room and closing the door behind him. He knew that leaving Sougo alone when he was upset wasn’t the best idea; Sougo had a tendency to be a little extreme with how he handled his emotions, and somebody needed to keep him in check. He watched Sougo sit down, shrugging his outer jacket off and hanging it up nicely on the clothes rack. Souchan.” 

Sougo didn’t reply, and Tamaki thought back to the last time Sougo had given him the silent treatment. That hadn’t gone well, if how Sougo had ended up in the hospital was any sort of indicator. The only good thing that came out of that incident was that they found out about Sougo’s condition and his being on suppressants. Tamaki was sure that nothing good would come out of Sougo staying as upset as he was now. 

Both times Sougo was this upset was because he was disappointed in Tamaki, and the alpha didn’t know how he was supposed to repent for his mistakes. Sougo had every reason to be mad at him; Tamaki knew that much, at least. But what made it worse was that Sougo wasn’t angry, per se. He was simply disappointed, and only because Tamaki had failed the most basic of expectations Sougo had had of him. 

Even if they weren’t a couple, Tamaki shouldn’t have done something like that to an omega. He could only imagine how terrible Sougo had felt, to be treated as nothing more than his secondary gender. 

Tamaki walked over to where Sougo was sitting, wrapping his arms around the omega’s neck and nuzzling the crook of his neck gently. Sougo stiffened under his touch, and Tamaki resisted the urge to heave a sigh. 

“I’m sorry.” 

“Are you really?” Sougo challenged, still refusing to turn around and look at Tamaki. “You seemed pretty self-righteous about your actions earlier on. Did you think that it wouldn’t affect me?” 

“No,” Tamaki did sigh this time, resting his forehead on Sougo’s shoulder. “I know I was wrong, okay? I don’t think before I do things. I know that. You’re not wrong to be upset.” 

“But do you know why I’m upset?” the omega asked, pushing Tamaki’s face away from him. “And stop with the calming pheromones. I’m still mad.” 

Tamaki raised a brow. “Because I used my alpha scent on you?” 

“There’s that,” Sougo agreed, finally sparing Tamaki a glance, “and that you were being rude to our senpai. I know Yuki-san told you that you can do as you like on their show, but that doesn’t mean that you can be act so wilfully. No matter what, they’re still our senpai, Tamaki-kun.” 

“I know,” Tamaki grumbled. “I won’t do it again.” 

“Promise?” 

“Yeah.”  

When Sougo held his hands out, Tamaki stepped into his boyfriend’s embrace. He chuckled when Sougo leaned against his abdomen and sighed, and Tamaki patted Sougo’s head a couple of times in an effort to appease him. “Sorry for getting mad at you.” 

“I deserved it, I guess,” Tamaki shrugged. He was just glad that the omega’s scent was returning to normal; he really hated when Sougo’s scent was anything but that. It didn’t help that most of the time, it was his fault that Sougo got upset. It wasn’t a nice feeling. 

The door to the waiting room opened abruptly, and Nagi burst into the room. “Great! Tamaki and Sougo are getting along again!” the blond exclaimed gleefully, walking over to give the couple a hug. 

Tamaki shot his fellow alpha a look, not at all happy that his moment with Sougo had been interrupted. “Not now, Nagicchi,” he grumbled, shifting him and Sougo away from Nagi’s reach. 

Sougo chuckled, pulling away from Tamaki and smiling up at him. “It’s fine, isn’t it? Don't be jealous.” 

“I’m not.” 

“How cute,” Sougo couldn’t help but tease. “I’m not angry anymore, see?” 

“Alright,” Yamato spoke up, “let’s get changed and head home. Onii-san's exhausted.” 

 

--- 

 

“Good job guys! IDOLiSH7 sure was cool! Thanks for giving it your all during the talk and during your performance!” Momo praised, offering the group a thumbs-up. 

Yuki nodded in agreement with his partner. “Good work. Thanks to you all, the show will be enjoyable.” 

Tsumugi bowed to the duo. “Thank you for all of your hard work! We’re truly sorry about Tamaki-san and Sougo-san running out like that!” she apologised, not daring to stand back upright before Re:vale accepted her apology. As IDOLiSH7’s manager, she felt that she should’ve been prepared for at least this much; it wasn’t as if MEZZO didn’t have their fair share of disagreements, though they were often quick to blow over. 

“It’s no big deal,” Momo assured. “Don’t bow to us like that! It makes us feel old!” 

“Thank you very much!” Riku echoed, almost lowering himself into a bow as well. He righted himself when Iori put a hand on his shoulder, shaking his head slightly at the alpha. If Iori didn’t know better, he would’ve thought that Riku was intentionally ignoring what Momo had said, but in reality, the alpha was just a complete airhead. “I’m sorry for causing so much trouble...” 

Momo clicked his tongue disapprovingly, wagging a finger in Riku’s face. “Now, stop apologizing! I was super moved when you sang for us! And happy that we had such wonderful guests today!” 

Yuki looked at Momo fondly, easily slinging an arm over the beta’s shoulder. “Momo’s head is always filled with happiness,” the alpha praised, and there was no mistaking the blush that appeared on Momo’s face. 

“And Yuki’s madly in love with that side of me.” 

“Well, you’re right.” 

“They sure are lovey-dovey...” Mitsuki mumbled under his breath. He wondered how it was that nobody suspected the two of being an actual couple – or maybe people did have their suspicions, but there was simply no point in exposing them. After all, Re:vale’s fans loved the husband and wife act that the duo had going on, and Mitsuki was rather sure that their fans would be supportive of them. 

Besides, Re:vale had more than enough fans that they wouldn’t fall apart, even if their secret was revealed to the public. The same couldn’t be said for IDOLiSH7, not just yet. Sometimes Mitsuki felt that it would be nice not to have to sneak around on dates. 

“Watch out, you guys,” Yuki warned jokingly. “This is what happens when you’ve been with someone for five years, and you can’t stop it from happening either.” 

Momo hummed in agreement, wearing a grave expression on his face. “And once every three years, there’ll be a crisis too.” 

“A crisis!?” Riku asked in alarm. 

Iori nudged his boyfriend in the side; Riku was being way too obvious. “Are you two a married couple or what...” he asked dryly. He was one of the few who didn’t know that Re:vale was a real couple yet, and Riku leaned in to whisper into Iori’s ear. The omega’s eyes widened, and he looked at his boyfriend in mild disbelief, only to earn an affirmative nod. “I... see.” 

“It’s pretty hard, you know? You end up doing things to spice it up, like wearing super exciting underwear, even though all of that hard work goes unseen,” Momo sighed in disappointment. 

He let out a surprised yelp when he was abruptly pulled against Yuki’s chest, and Momo was glad that Yuki couldn’t see how red his face currently was. He was used to flirting with Yuki onscreen, but when he was attacked so suddenly, he couldn’t help but be caught off-guard. It didn’t help that Yuki wasn’t being subtle in the least. “You got new underwear? Sorry, I didn’t notice.” 

“Yuki-kun and Momo-kun sure are close, aren’t they?” one of the staff commented. 

“How nice!” 

“A-anyway!” Momo managed to free himself from Yuki’s hold, turning to stick his tongue out at his boyfriend. “You’re awful! Alright then, next time I’ll wear one with your face printed on them.” 

Yuki had to hide his snicker behind his hand. “Could you, maybe, refrain from having my face all over your butt? Not that I particularly dislike it. It's just a little awkward.” 

“I’m just pulling your leg!” Momo laughed. “It’s actually going to be your dad’s face!” 

The change in Yuki’s expression was instantaneous. The smile he’d been wearing dropped off his face entirely, and his brows furrowed into a frown. Momo winced; he knew he’d gone a little too far with his joke. Yuki wasn’t the best at handling jealousy – he could be crazy possessive. “That’s even worse,” Yuki said without a hint of humour in his voice. 

Riku looked between the two, letting out an awkward laugh in an attempt to get rid of the strange atmosphere. It didn’t help much, and Momo let out an awkward laugh of his own. “Hey, IDOLiSH7. You’ve heard about Zero Arena’s reopening, right?” he asked, hoping to steer the conversation away from his joke. 

“Yes. It’s rumoured that Re:vale will do the reopening concert.” 

“It’s not just us,” Momo corrected. “The reopening is going to be a three-day concert – the first day is TRIGGER, and the last day is yours truly.” 

Yuki sighed, knowing what Momo was trying to do and knowing that he’d gone a little overboard with the possessiveness again. He couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to lose Momo, too. But he did acknowledge that his behaviour was ridiculous at times, and Momo had scolded him about it on more than a few occasions. “The performers for the second day haven’t been decided yet. How about taking it on?” 

“Reopening Zero Arena, with TRIGGER and Re:vale!? I want to do it!” Riku exclaimed excitedly. 

“Then spin around once and say woof,” Yuki instructed. 

“Huh?” 

Momo frowned at the alpha. “Don’t bully your kouhai just because you’re in a bad mood, Yuki,” he chided. It was one of Yuki’s bad habits that came out only when he wasn’t in the best of moods and was trying to cheer himself up, but normally he only did it to Momo and their manager, Rinto. “Make fun of me if you have to. Riku didn’t do anything to you.” 

But Riku was already turning around, looking extremely focused as he said, “Woof!” 

Iori’s heart flipped in his chest – how is Nanase-san so cute?! The omega fought to keep a blush off his face, although he wanted to pull Riku to the side and kiss him silly. He might have been amused by how ridiculously adorable his boyfriend was, but that didn’t mean he wanted the others to see it. Even worse was the fact that Yuki was the one who’d told Riku to do it. Iori didn’t like to see people ordering Riku around, even if Yuki was their senpai. 

Before he could say anything, Yuki was already making an apologetic face. “I was kidding...” 

The look on Riku’s face was, rather impossibly, even more adorable than when he’d barked. He was completely and utterly confused, head tilted to the side and eyes wide. Iori thought his heart would jump right out of his chest. “Excuse me, could you please refrain from making our centre bark?” the omega requested, arms crossed as he stared straight at Yuki. 

“U-um, so how much of this was a joke? Was that bit about the reopening concert also a joke?” Riku asked unsurely, teeth now tugging at his lower lip. 

Iori sighed, hating how dispirited Riku was. Just moments ago, he’d been so excited at the prospect of being able to take on such an important role alongside TRIGGER and Re:vale. Iori knew how much Riku wanted to prove IDOLiSH7’s worth as the winners of Black or White’s Male Idol Award. He just wished the alpha wasn’t so hung up over it. Riku didn’t need the additional pressure he put on himself. 

“Nope, that was the truth!” Momo assured, shooting Yuki a disapproving look. “However, the one that’ll decide for real is the owner of Zero Arena. We’ll be pushing for you guys, though. The owner will probably contact you sometime soon!” 

“Grasp that chance, and climb up to where we are.” 

Chapter Text

“Iori, are you okay?” Riku asked, arms wrapped around his boyfriend’s frame. 

Iori nodded against Riku’s shoulder, letting himself indulge in Riku’s scent for a little while. “Just tired.” 

Recording was finished, Tamaki and Sougo had made up, and they were supposed to change out of their stage costumes before heading home. Iori was far from being changed, but he was beginning to feel the exhaustion of redoing their performance six times. It didn’t help that his body was still sore from his heat, and honestly the omega just wanted to collapse in bed and sleep for the entirety of the next day. 

Riku sighed, moving one hand up to comb through Iori’s hair in what he hoped to be a soothing motion. It was the first time since debuting that Iori had to work on the day that his heat ended, and while Riku couldn’t know for sure how tired the omega felt, he figured it was probably extremely draining. “Sorry for messing up so many times,” Riku apologised with a grimace. 

“It’s not your fault,” Iori mumbled, forcing himself to pull away from Riku’s scent glands. It was comfortable to breathe in Riku’s scent, but then he’d just end up falling asleep and they would never get home. “The faster we change, the faster I can go home and sleep like the dead, right?” 

“We kind of have work tomorrow,” Yamato piped up, and Iori huffed in annoyance. 

“I know,” he said dryly, shooting the leader an unimpressed glance. Yamato simply shrugged in response. “Nii-san, do you mind passing me my bag? And Nanase-san, you should get changed too.” 

When Iori moved to change his clothes, he winced at the twinge in his thighs. He did a decent enough job of hiding it while they were on the set, but now that recording was over and they were amongst themselves, he didn’t see the need to hide his discomfort. 

Sougo sent a look of understanding in Iori’s direction. “It feels terrible to work after a heat, doesn’t it?” 

Sighing, Iori nodded. Sougo had experienced the same thing just a month ago, and god knew Tamaki had been crazy protective of the omega when they’d worked the next day. “Yeah. But there’s no way out of it, especially since we might be doing the reopening concert for Zero Arena.” 

“Zero Arena’s reopening concert... Can we really do it? If we can, then it’ll be really amazing...” Mitsuki mumbled, already changed and seated on the couch. Sometimes Iori was jealous of his brother and Yamato – it was certainly easier to be a beta and not have to go through week-long heats. 

“Are you referring to filling in the slot for the second day? I wonder if we have to audition.” 

Pudding in hand, Tamaki shrugged. He'd managed to take his pudding back from Sougo after they made up, although Sougo had been rather reluctant to give it back. After all, it was because of the pudding that Tamaki had been throwing a tantrum earlier on. “I don’t really know, but Re:vale are really good people. They did say they’d push for us, so.” 

“Yeah...” Riku agreed with a small smile. “I think I’m a fan of Re:vale’s now! They’re a little strange, but really friendly and nice. They take such good care of their staff and guests, and treat them really well… They’re cool both inside and out!” 

“And as usual,” Iori sighed, “Nanase-san has been easily influenced once again.” 

“They are nice, though!” 

“I’m just kidding,” Iori chuckled exasperatedly. It was too easy to tease Riku, and the indignant pout he wore on his face was worth any complaints that Iori would receive later on. Not that Riku ever was truly mad at him; maybe embarrassed, but never angry. 

Nagi nodded in agreement. “Mr. Momo and Mr. Yuki were such charming gentlemen… as expected of top stars,” he said, holding a hand to his chest as if he was truly touched. 

Mitsuki stared at his boyfriend, wondering what exactly it was with Nagi and his theatrics. He couldn’t exactly complain about it, though, because it was part of what made the blond alpha so endearing. 

From beside Tamaki, Sougo said, “Indeed. I’m glad we met such wonderful senpai.” 

The door to their waiting room clicked open suddenly, and the entire group turned to look at who it was. Riku was just glad that Iori was done changing – if it was up to him, he wouldn’t want to let anyone see any part of Iori’s body. 

Yuki stepped in, eyes scanning the room until he spotted who he was looking for. Then his face lit up, and he waved at Yamato. “Oh, there he is. Yamato-kun!” 

“Huh? Yuki-san?” Riku asked, confused as to why Re:vale’s leader would be looking for theirs. 

“There’s something I’d like to talk about. Do you have time after this?” the alpha asked. 

Yamato stared blankly at Yuki, face completely void of any emotion. “...Nope. I’m busy.” 

What!?”  

“H-how about you just go and talk to him? He took such good care of us!” Riku suggested. 

Tsumugi was already nodding furiously in agreement. She didn’t want to offend Yuki by turning down such a simple request. It wasn’t as if they really had another schedule after this, anyway. “Yeah! If you’re worried about time, we have plenty!” 

“I’m sure their end is busy, though. And saying that there’s something he needs to talk about is just lip service. Senpai, if you don’t mind, I’m leaving first.” 

Yamato stood up, slinging his bag over his shoulder and walking past Yuki to exit the room. Yuki wasn’t particularly fazed by it, but Tsumugi was. “W-Wait, Yamato-san!? S-sorry about this, Yuki-san! I look forward to seeing you again! Now, if you’ll excuse us!” 

The manager rushed out after the leader, and the others got up as well. 

“Thank you very much for today!” 

“Thank you very much. If the chance arises again, we humbly look forward to working with you again.” 

“Yup, yup!” Momo chirped. “We look forward to it too! Good work guys!” 

The other members of IDOLiSH7 shuffled out of their waiting room, leaving the two members of Re:vale standing in the doorway. With a sigh, Yuki watched as the door of the waiting room closed. 

 

--- 

 

“...I got rejected.” 

“So, that glasses kid was the one you were talking about?” Momo asked curiously. “Yamato, right?” 

Sighing, Yuki nodded, stepping into Momo’s open embrace and letting himself be held by the beta. “Yes. He’s all grown up now. When I first met him, he was still wearing a school uniform.” 

“Ooh, a blazer?” Momo guessed, chuckling when Yuki dropped his head onto his shoulder. “Aww, I didn’t realise my darling was so easily defeated. I’m sure you’ll get him to talk to you properly!” 

“It wasn’t a blazer. It was a gakuran. The Yamato-kun from back then... he had lost all faith in humanity and looked upon those in the entertainment industry as if they were cockroaches, if not worse. But thanks for the support, Momo.” 

Momo blinked as he processed Yuki’s words. He knew Yuki had known Yamato from when he’d worked odd jobs in the past, but Yuki wasn’t one to talk about others. He'd only just brought up the fact that he knew IDOLiSH7’s leader a few days ago, when they’d found out that IDOLiSH7 was due to guest on their show today. Even then, Yuki hadn’t told Momo much about Yamato. 

Sometimes Momo wondered if Yuki just didn’t trust him enough, despite being together for the better half of the past five years as Re:vale. He knew that Yuki didn’t like to share much about himself, but Momo would be lying if he said that he didn’t feel at least a little inadequate as Yuki’s boyfriend. 

“Did something happen between him and someone in the industry last time?” 

Yuki sighed again. “Sorry, Momo. This isn’t something I can just tell you.” 

Momo’s smile faltered, and he was glad that Yuki could neither see his face nor smell him. Sometimes Momo wished that he’d been born as something other than a beta, but times like this made him glad that he was a beta. It was much, much easier to hide his feelings from Yuki this way. “You don’t think I’m trustworthy enough for a secret that big?” Momo faked a laugh, but it sounded pathetic even to himself. 

Yuki lifted his head then, looking Momo straight in the eyes. “You know I trust you more than anyone in the world,” Yuki said firmly, holding Momo’s face and leaning down to press a kiss onto the beta’s lips. “I really want to tell you, but this isn’t my secret to tell. As you saw, Yamato-kun doesn’t even want to spare me a glance. Imagine if he knew that I talked about his past with you.” 

“I suppose that makes sense,” Momo conceded. “Let’s change out and go back.” 

“To your house? Or mine?” 

“...let’s just go to our own homes tonight. I’m kind of tired.” 

Yuki’s brows creased into a frown, Momo almost always wanted to spend time together, and he abruptly put a hand on Momo’s forehead. “Are you feeling unwell? You should’ve told me or Okarin earlier. Come on then; let’s get you home so that you can rest.” 

Momo nodded, managing a small smile when Yuki kissed him again, this time on the cheek. They left IDOLiSH7’s waiting room and went back to theirs. Rinto was there already, had been waiting there since the couple ran off to look for Yamato. “So? How did it go?” he asked. “From the look on your face and the fact that you’re already back, I’m guessing Yamato-kun said no?” 

“Okarin’s smart, huh.” 

“And Yuki-kun is sarcastic, huh,” Rinto parroted with a slight roll of his eyes. “Let’s head back already.” 

“Yes, Okarin,” the couple said in unison, quickly changing out of their stage costumes before Rinto started to nag them. Their manager was just a beta, but he could be scary as hell if he wanted to be. Even Yuki, an alpha, knew better than to challenge Rinto’s authority, and Yuki didn’t generally care much for others’ opinions of him. 

Once they got their things packed, the trio left the studio for Rinto’s car. 

The ride home was more silent than usual; normally, Momo would make conversation with Rinto and Yuki. The alpha didn’t always reply, sometimes being caught up in his own thoughts about what to compose for their next album. This time, Momo was the one who remained quiet throughout the drive, instead staring out the window with a thoughtful look on his face. 

Yuki wanted to reach out to his partner, assure him that he did trust him. He'd known Momo for long enough to be able to tell when the beta was brooding over something, and Momo certainly was doing that now. But just like how Yuki kept things to himself, Momo did too. He was relatively sure that Momo wouldn’t tell him what was truly bothering him; and Yuki didn’t want a half-assed answer. 

So he kept his hand firmly by his side, sighing inwardly and hoping that Momo would eventually stop brooding over whatever it was that he was concerned about. 

Momo glanced over at Yuki when he didn’t feel the warmth of Yuki’s hand on his. He’s not even going to push me for an explanation? Momo thought bitterly. Sure, he wouldn’t have told Yuki the truth anyway, but was Yuki not even going to try? If it was Bansan... Yuki would’ve told him about Yamato, right? I’m just a replacement for Bansan, after all. 

 

--- 

 

“Yamato-san, are you sure it’s okay?” Riku asked unsurely as they walked down the corridors. 

“Yeah.” 

Oh, is he an acquaintance? I’ve heard that Yamato knows lots of people in the industry-” 

Nagi was cut off by both Tamaki and Sougo shouting “Shut up!” at him. 

The blond was taken aback, wondering what exactly he’d said wrong. “What!?” 

Sougo pursed his lips, knowing that Tamaki was definitely on the same wavelength with him regarding this issue. After all, it’d been the two of them who’d been subjected to Yamato’s anger in the past, and on two separate occasions. They certainly didn’t wish for the same to happen to their friends. “It’s... best if you don’t bring that subject up,” Sougo advised cautiously. 

Beside him, Tamaki nodded furiously in agreement. “Just... don’t.” 

Yamato raised a brow at the duo. “What a strange response. What is it, MEZZO?” 

Exchanging a wary look with his boyfriend, Sougo hesitantly replied, “Well... if you do bring it up, you get called a persistent bastard.” 

“Or a fucking dumbass,” Tamaki added, making sure to scowl at the leader. 

“What? That bothered you guys?” Yamato laughed. “Sorry about that!” 

“It’s fine...” 

Mitsuki clicked his tongue, climbing into the van and taking his usual seat. Nagi was quick to sit beside him, already draping himself over his boyfriend. “Oi Nagi, can’t you wait till we get back before cuddling?” Mitsuki scolded, thankful that it was dark outside and nobody could see them. When Yamato sat down, Mitsuki said, “Anyway, Yamato-san, don’t bully the younger members. You honestly have no chill sometimes. Or maybe 'immature’ is a better word.” 

“Like you’re one to talk about maturity. Maybe give it a few years?” Yamato teased. 

“Listen, I’ve been an adult for a damn long time, alright! Do you need to see my coming-of-age ceremony pictures as proof!? Huh!?” Mitsuki demanded, and if Nagi’s entire torso wasn’t weighing Mitsuki down, the beta might have already tried to take a swing at the leader. 

“They’re really cute,” Iori chimed in sleepily, leaning against Riku with the alpha’s arm over his shoulder. 

“Shut it!” 

“They are, though,” Iori huffed, in a quieter and groggier voice than before. 

Beside him, Riku stifled a chuckle. “Take a nap. I'll wake you when we get back, okay?” he said, feeling Iori nod and snuggle a little closer to his chest. Riku smiled, how cute, leaning down to quickly place a kiss on Iori’s forehead. 

“...Yamato,” Nagi said suddenly. 

“What?” 

“Take off your glasses,” he continued, finally letting Mitsuki go and looking at Yamato in the eye. For a long time, Nagi had thought that Yamato looked similar to a certain famous actor, but he’d never had the chance to see Yamato without his glasses before. 

Nagi hadn’t intended on prying into the matter, per se, but his reaction to seeing Yuki had sparked the curiosity that had previously already died down. After all, although Yamato wasn’t the most sociable person out there, he also always made sure to at least be polite to the people they worked with; for IDOLiSH7’s image, if not his own. 

Yamato stared blankly at Nagi, much like how he’d looked at Yuki when the latter had burst into their waiting room earlier. “No, I’m not going to turn into a hot girl like they do in your anime,” he rejected immediately, turning back to look at Tsumugi. “Manager, what are you going to do about the reopening concert?” 

“Yamasan, you’re not very good at subtly changing the subject, are you?” 

“It was that obvious?” 

“Painfully so,” Mitsuki said dryly. He couldn’t deny that he was just as curious about Yamato’s ties to the entertainment industry as Nagi was and, as Tamaki said, Yamato’s attempt at diverting the subject from himself was rather pathetic. 

Tsumugi didn’t seem to mind Yamato’s unskilful change of topic, replying brightly with, “Zero Arena’s reopening concert... If we get the call, then this will be IDOLiSH7’s first major job since debut! If possible, I’d like to accept the offer!” 

“I hope we get to do it as well,” Sougo agreed. 

“It’s the least we should be able to do as the group that won TRIGGER, right?” Mitsuki said. 

“As the winners of Black or White’s Male Idol award, huh...” Riku mumbled, teeth worrying at his lower lip as he thought of how he’d messed up multiple times during today’s recording. He wondered if he would be able to do as good a job for Zero Arena’s reopening concert as he did for Black or White. It certainly wasn’t going to be an easy feat, but he was IDOLiSH7’s centre. He couldn’t let his own condition drag everyone else down. 

“Don’t stress yourself out, Nanase-san.” 

“Iori? You were awake?” 

“Just barely,” Iori mumbled, eyes still closed. He’d been drifting in and out of sleep, somehow picking up bits and pieces of their conversation. He hadn’t intended to interrupt them, simply listen to what was said and attempt to get some sleep. But then Riku had started getting worried about their statuses as the group that triumphed over TRIGGER, and Iori decided that maybe he should cut in after all. 

Riku would certainly continue to overwork himself if he continued to brood over this matter. 

Pouting, Riku squeezed Iori’s shoulder lightly. “Sorry. I’ll try not to stress myself out.” 

“We’re almost back at the dorm. Iori-san, please do rest well tonight.” 

“Yeah, I will.” 

The topic of Yamato’s ties with the entertainment industry was dropped entirely, and the rest of the ride to the dorm was relatively silent. None of them wanted to disturb Iori, knowing fully well how tired he was and how much he needed the rest. 

 

--- 

 

When they finally got back to the dorm, Iori was out like a light, snoring softly against Riku’s shoulder. As much as he felt bad for waking Iori up, they still had to shower before they could head to bed. He briefly contemplated just carrying Iori back to the dorm, but knowing the omega, Iori would probably scold Riku about overexerting himself. 

With a sigh, Riku reluctantly woke Iori up, letting the omega get out of the car first and following closely behind him. “I’ll take your bag,” Riku offered, earning himself a small smile from Iori. 

“Thank you. I feel like I’m barely conscious right now,” Iori admitted, trudging up the stairs with heavy feet and heading to his bedroom. “Is it alright if I take the shower first?” 

“Please do, Iori-kun,” Sougo told him. 

“Do you want me to make anything to drink?” Mitsuki asked, already heading into the kitchen to whip up something quick for Nagi and Tamaki. 

“It’s fine, nii-san. I just really need to sleep.” 

They watched as Iori dragged himself to the bathroom, change of clothes in hand. It was only when the bathroom door was closed that the rest of them headed to the living area, seating themselves on the couch and dining table as Mitsuki began preparing instant noodles for the two hungry boys. “Riku, do you want tea? Actually, never mind. I’m making the tea anyway, so just drink it.” 

“Okay.” 

“Wasn’t your condition worse than usual today, Riku?” Nagi asked in concern. 

Riku smiled sheepishly at the blond, vaguely wondering if he should admit that he’d just been worried about Re:vale realising Iori’s status as an omega. It had been a valid concern, because Iori had just come out of his heat and it was natural that his scent would be stronger than usual. But the fact that he’d even thought of Re:vale doing something to Iori was rather embarrassing; he hadn’t known that they, too, were a couple after all. 

Yamato looked up from his phone. “Riku was worried for Ichi, wasn’t he?” 

“Way to rat me out, Yamato-san,” Riku grumbled indignantly. “How was I supposed to know they were a couple? If you know Yuki-san from before, couldn’t you have told me?” 

Holding his hands up in surrender, Yamato said, “I didn’t know for sure if they were together, alright?” 

“Stop arguing,” Tamaki sighed. “Yukirin scolded me because I used my scent to make Souchan submit, so he wouldn’t have done anything to Iorin. Now you know, so you don’t have to worry about that the next time we have a schedule with them. We have bigger things to worry about, anyway.” 

“You mean Zero Arena’s reopening concert?” Mitsuki asked, and Tamaki nodded in response. “Huh. I didn’t think even Tamaki would be concerned about it. I thought you didn’t care much for performing in big venues?” 

“It’s fun when the audience enjoys our performance,” Tamaki shrugged nonchalantly. “And if word gets out that we’re doing the reopening concert, since it’s such a big thing, don’t you think Aya would hear about it? She can look for me there, can’t she?” 

“So this is about Aya-chan,” Sougo said, although he’d already guessed as much. It’d been over half a year since they debuted as MEZZO, more than a month since they won at Black or White, and still Tamaki had no news regarding Aya. She was due to start high school in just two months from now – it made sense that Tamaki would get impatient, even if there wasn’t really anything he could do about it. 

Tamaki pursed his lips. “Of course. I just hope she comes to look for me soon. I don’t want her to start working at such a young age to pay off her adopted family’s debts.” 

“It sure is hard being an older sibling, huh,” Mitsuki said, bringing over two bowls of steaming noodles to the table. “Don’t eat too quickly. It's really hot.” 

“Thanks, Mikki.” 

“Thank you, Mitsuki!” 

Don’t jump on me,” Mitsuki warned, taking a step back from his boyfriend. “You’re going to dirty my apron with your outdoor clothes. I'm going to check if Iori’s done, then maybe take my shower, alright?” 

“Will you sleep with me tonight?” 

Rolling his eyes, Mitsuki said, “I’ll think about it.” 

“Oh, Iori’s done,” Riku said suddenly, just as Iori poked his head through the open door. 

“Who wants to go next?” 

“I will,” Mitsuki replied, tugging his apron off and putting it aside. “Dry your hair properly before you sleep. See you in the morning.” 

“Yeah,” Iori said, and Mitsuki walked out of the living area. Then Iori glanced at Riku, thinking back about the several times that the alpha had botched their performance today. As tired as he was, Iori was still worried for the redhead. “Nanase-san, do you want to sleep together tonight?” 

Riku didn’t even hesitate as he replied, “It’s fine. You’re tired, right?” 

“Well, yes, but-” 

“Then it’s fine,” Riku beamed at Iori, hoping that Iori would be convinced. The truth was, of course, that Riku wanted to sleep together with his boyfriend. 

Just as much as Iori’s scent helped to calm him down, he knew that his scent helped Iori to rest better. But at the same time, Riku was pretty sure that he would wake up in a coughing fit in the middle of the night, and even though he knew that Iori would be able to hear it from his room anyway, it wouldn’t be as bad as hearing it from right beside him. 

Iori raised a sceptical brow. “Really?” 

Nodding affirmatively, Riku replied, “Yes, now go dry your hair and go to bed!” 

“Okay then...” Iori wasn’t entirely convinced, but he was too tired to really push the issue. He went over to Riku, waiting expectantly in front of the alpha until Riku got the hint and stood up to pull Iori into a quick hug. “Goodnight, Nanase-san.” 

“Yeah, goodnight Iori.” 

 

--- 

 

Momo sighed, sinking down onto his couch and dropping his bag on the floor. It'd been quite a long while since he’d felt this drained after a schedule; although, Momo knew fully well that it had nothing at all to do with the schedule itself, and everything to do with his partner of five years. 

Talking to IDOLiSH7, be it on set or off of it, had been no problem at all. It was easy to talk to the rookie group despite how uptight some of them were. Sougo, for one, had been incredibly tense when Momo spoke to him. It was almost endearing, because it somewhat reminded Momo of himself when he had just debuted with Yuki. 

With a sigh, Momo tried not to think of his boyfriend. Yuki hadn’t done anything wrong, per se. He'd had a point, saying that he couldn’t simply tell Momo about Yamato’s personal matters. It certainly wouldn’t be good if Yamato somehow caught wind of Yuki running his mouth, and Yamato already didn’t seem to like Yuki very much. The last thing Momo wanted was for Yamato’s impression of Yuki to worsen. 

And yet, Momo couldn’t help but think that he was inadequate, that Yuki couldn’t trust him enough to tell him about something like this. In fact, just two weeks ago, Momo hadn’t even known that Yuki knew Yamato from back when they were working odd-jobs. Sure, maybe it wasn’t something that would’ve come up in regular conversation, but Momo had mentioned IDOLiSH7 on many occasions now. 

“He would’ve told Bansan,” Momo mumbled to himself, hating how inferior he felt to Yuki’s old partner. 

He'd been with Yuki since Ban disappeared, and he’d been the one to pick up the broken pieces of the alpha and piece them back together. Yuki had asked Momo to be his boyfriend about two, nearly three, years ago, and of course Momo had accepted. He loved Yuki – there wasn’t a chance that he would’ve turned Yuki down. 

But he knew that he could never take Ban’s place in Yuki’s heart; after all, Ban was the one who’d originally gotten Yuki to open up to him and to start doing music as Re:vale. If not for Ban, Momo would never even have met Yuki, would never have gotten the chance to know Yuki as well as he did now. He knew, logically, that he really shouldn’t be jealous of Ban. It'd been nearly five years since Ban disappeared, and they had yet to hear any news of him. 

Yuki looked at Ban’s photos pretty often, though. Sometimes he thought Momo wasn’t paying attention, but when was Momo not paying attention to Yuki? He couldn’t rely on smelling Yuki’s scent to tell what the alpha was feeling; it was a major drawback of being a beta, and sometimes Momo wondered what it would be like to be an alpha or omega. 

So he’d learnt to watch Yuki, to observe the small changes in his expressions and behaviour in order to know what he was thinking. Yuki could fake a smile, but Momo could easily see through it by now. He wouldn’t ever know the reason behind the faked smile unless Yuki told him, though. If he was anything but a beta, he would at least be able to recognise the emotion in Yuki’s scent. 

The vibration from a call nearly made Momo jump out of his skin, as caught up in his thoughts as he’d been, and the beta glanced at his phone to see that it was, of course, Yuki. Some part of him was tempted to ignore the call, but Yuki had a tendency to worry, especially since he knew that Momo had been brooding over something after the recording. 

Picking up his phone and steeling himself to fake a cheery voice, Momo answered the call. “Yes, darling? Do you miss me already?” he teased. He hoped that Yuki would buy the false cheer, or that he would at least not ask about it. He didn’t want to have to explain how he felt to Yuki, be it over the phone or in person. 

“Are you home already? Did you shower yet?”  

I just got home five minutes ago, silly,” Momo forced a chuckle, although the smile dropped off his face entirely rather quickly. “I’ll shower soon, so don’t worry about me. How about you?” 

“I just finished showering, actually. Are you still feeling unwell? Is it a cold? The weather hasn’t been the best as of late, right? If you want, I could make some herbal tea for you to drink before our recording tomorrow. It should help.”  

“Whoa, slow down there,” Momo said. He knew that Yuki was afraid of losing him, which was the main reason why he had a tendency to be overprotective, as well as possessive. Its because he lost Bansan, although that was a totally different matter altogether. “I’ll be fine. Some medicine and a good night’s rest should do the trick. Besides, you know I hate that nasty stuff.” 

“Well, it’s good for you.”  

“But it tastes disgusting. I’ll have to decline, but thank you for offering. I’ll quickly take a shower and then go to bed, alright? I’m pretty tired, and we have to get up early tomorrow. We can talk in the morning.” 

Even if he couldn’t physically see him, Momo could imagine the way Yuki was pursing his lips. “Okay.” 

“Goodnight darling! I love you!” 

Yuki chuckled, and Momo felt his worries ease slightly. At the very least, Yuki didn’t seem to be angry at him for being upset and for pushing him away. The alpha understood that even Momo needed his own space sometimes. “Goodnight Momo. I love you too.” 

When Yuki made a kissing sound through the phone, Momo felt himself blush. “See you tomorrow!” he said before quickly ending the call, cheeks pink and heartrate speeding up. It was ridiculous how much of an effect Yuki had on him even now, not that Momo was really complaining. He really did love Yuki a lot. 

Sometimes Momo thought that it would be nice to be an omega. Sure, maybe having heats was rough on an omega, not that he would know. Being an omega did mean that he could be mated to Yuki, though, and that would definitely make Momo less insecure about himself. 

He always did wonder why Yuki hadn’t become mates with Ban. If Yuki managed to find Ban, would he make him his mate? The mere thought of it scared Momo. He missed Ban, too, but if finding Ban meant that he might lose Yuki... 

Maybe it would be better if they never managed to find Ban.

Chapter Text

The owner of Zero Arena contacted Tsumugi barely a few days later, telling her that he and his team would be going down to watch IDOLiSH7’s next live in Tokyo as an evaluation of their ability. They had two weeks to prepare for it, which was ample time by any standards, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t all equally nervous about it. 

Re:vale was expecting them to get the spot for the second day’s performance, and none of them wanted to let Re:vale down. Riku, especially, felt the pressure placed on him as IDOLiSH7’s centre, and his condition didn’t seem to be improving in the slightest. 

Everyone was worried about Riku’s increasingly frequent midnight coughing fits, now at the point where there wasn’t a single night that he didn’t end up coughing his lungs out. On bad nights, he would wake up twice or even thrice to cough, and it was bad enough that the rest of the group would wake up as well. Even Yamato would come out of his room to check on Riku, and he was a whole five rooms away from the alpha. 

The day of their live came around all too soon, and rehearsal seemed to pass by in a flash. Tsumugi had come up with a new staging for this live in particular, and she’d been rather confident about how it had turned out. Iori, too, had been impressed by the stage setup this time around, and he was quite honestly looking forward to see the audience’s response to it. 

More than that, though, Iori was extremely concerned for Riku’s health. Aside from the fact that Riku was considerably stressed about having to do well, he’d also been coughing for almost the entirety of the previous night. 

But they couldn’t not perform at their live, and it was already time for them to go on stage for their first performance soon. Riku took a deep breath to calm his nerves, and Iori went over to put a hand on the alpha’s shoulder. “You’ll do fine, Nanase-san. Don't worry too much about it.” 

“I’ll try,” Riku sighed, glancing around quickly before pulling Iori into a hug. 

“N-Nanase-san!” the omega hissed, fully aware that there were staff members around who could see them. A few of them were Takanashi Productions’ own staff who already knew about their relationship, but there were a few staff from the concert venue’s management team. 

Riku was sensible enough to pull back after just a few seconds, managing a sheepish smile at his boyfriend. “Sorry. I’m just nervous. I think I should be fine.” 

“That’d be best,” Yamato cut in, “time to get this concert started.” 

Riku nodded, and they walked on stage together. 

“Good evening! We’re IDOLiSH7!” Riku greeted with a bright smile, and the audience exploded into screams. “I’m sure you already know, but our regular show A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7! is starting soon! I hope you cheer us on, be it TV or here, at our lives!” 

Iori looked at Riku’s back, confident and unwavering, and he hoped that Riku would be able to make it through the rest of the concert. All traces of Riku’s prior nervousness had seemed to vanish the moment they stepped onto stage, as it usually did. Riku was always able to perform better when he had an audience in front of him. 

The audience shouted eager replies in response to Riku’s statement, and the alpha continued, “Thank you! We’ll keep on challenging new things! We hope to show you even more sides to IDOLiSH7! And now, the song that started it all, our first song – MONSTER GENERATiON!” 

The concert started off well; Riku managed to project his voice decently enough considering his health as of late, and unlike at NEXT Re:vale’s recording, he managed to keep up with the other members throughout the first half of the concert. 

It was during the second half when it became more apparent that Riku was beginning to struggle to breathe. As much as he was able to, Riku didn’t let it affect his singing, forcing himself to belt out his lines and only breaking off to wheeze once it was the other members’ parts. 

By the time the concert ended, Riku was well in the throes of an attack – a bad one, from what Iori could see and smell. “And that was IDOLiSH7! Thank you for tonight, everyone!” Riku exclaimed gratefully, and Iori immediately ushered the alpha off the stage. 

 

--- 

 

The moment they were out of the audience’s view, Riku dissolved into a series of wheezing coughs, his lungs struggling to take in oxygen. Everything hurt, and he was beginning to feel light-headed, but even in his condition he could hear the audience calling for an encore. “Haah- ha...” 

Iori had run off immediately to look for Riku’s inhaler, returning as quickly as he could and forcing the inhaler to Riku’s mouth. He knew that Riku hated to rely on his medication, but the alpha’s scent was quickly becoming distressed, and Iori didn’t want Riku to collapse. “Nanase-san, please open your mouth! Here’s your inhaler. Breathe slowly.” 

As weak as he was, Riku still pushed the inhaler out of his face. “No! It’ll make my voice go hoarse-” he broke off to cough again, leaning heavily against the wall for support. Iori was certain that without the wall holding him up, Riku wouldn’t even have the strength to stand. As he was now, Riku was already doubled over in pain. And he’s still being stubborn, the idiot, Iori thought frustratedly. 

Yamato came over to where they were with a chair, frowning disapprovingly at their centre and forcing him to sit down. “There’s no way you can do the encore, Riku!” 

“I can still... do it...! I can do it!” 

Iori liked to think of himself as a rather level-headed person, but seeing Riku in such a condition was making even the omega begin to panic. He had to swallow past the lump in his throat, ignore the way his heart was almost physically hurting from seeing how much pain Riku was in. 

“With the way you are right now, you can’t go on stage!” Iori said as firmly as he could, although even he himself could hear the way his voice trembled. He turned to look at the members of MEZZO with pleading eyes. “Osaka-san, Yotsuba-san! Can MEZZO take it from here?” 

Sougo was quick to nod. “Understood! Don’t force yourself, Riku-kun. Promise?” 

“S-sorry,” Riku choked out, eyes beginning to burn with unshed tears. He wasn’t sure if he was crying from the pain or from the frustration of getting an attack during such a crucial concert. “I’m- so sorry-” 

Tamaki shook his head, nudging Sougo and making his way back on stage. “Don’t apologise! Rikkun, we’ll buy you time,” Tamaki assured. “Let’s go, Souchan.” 

“Riku, are you okay? You were coughing all night, too...” Nagi trailed off as Riku dissolved into coughs again, this time more serious than before. 

“Just use your inhaler! MEZZO’s singing right now so, in the meantime, you’ve got to calm down!” 

Still, Riku shook his head adamantly, and if Riku wasn’t already in pain Iori would’ve tried to shake some sense into him. “It’s no good, if I use it then I won’t be able to focus-” he coughed again, lungs burning with the effort to breathe. “This is my job, I have to sing-” 

“Riku-san...” 

Riku forced himself to look at Tsumugi, and even though he very clearly looked like he was suffering, he managed to retain the determined gaze in his eyes. Iori admired Riku for his determination, he really did, but times like this made him wish that the alpha could be a little less headstrong about his duties. “I promised... that I’d sing... until the very end of the live... That, and... they came to see us... the reopening ceremony people...” 

“Riku-san’s health is by far more important! Please use your inhaler! If you don’t then we’ll pull you out on doctor’s orders!” Tsumugi ordered. “At this rate, you’ll be wheeled out in an ambulance!” 

Shaking his head defiantly, Riku said, “N-no! We... finally got a chance...!” 

“It can’t be helped.” Please don’t blame me for doing this, Nanase-san. “Nikaidou-san, please hold Nanase-san down and open his mouth.” 

Betrayed eyes met Iori’s, and the omega had to tear his gaze away from Riku’s. “Iori...!” 

“Sorry, Riku. Stay still. Your health is our top priority, got it?” 

“...No! I can still go! I can-” Riku was cut off when Yamato pinned him against the chair by the shoulders, Nagi coming over to help hold Riku down, and the beta forced Riku’s mouth open. 

Iori held the inhaler to Riku’s mouth. “Ready in three, two, one,” he said, administering the dose of medication as he’d previously done for Riku. “Breathe in slowly. Now hold your breath.” 

“Don’t thrash about, Riku! It’s okay, you’ll be okay.” 

They waited for a few moments for the medication to take effect, but Riku’s breathing didn’t stabilise, and he continued to gasp for breath. Iori’s eyes widened; this hadn’t ever happened before. Riku’s attacks were always, always, able to be kept in control with his inhaler. “S-should I administer it again?” 

“N-no-” 

“I’m calling an ambulance,” Mitsuki declared, not bothering to wait for anybody to reply before he was dialling the emergency hotline and relaying the situation to them. 

MEZZO was nearly done performing their last song, and by now Riku was crying in earnest. It'd been long, too long, since he’d last had an attack this bad. The previous time he’d been admitted to the hospital hadn’t been all that long ago, but that incident had been more of a precautionary measure, to ensure that he was fully recovered. 

Riku was familiar with attacks like these, ones that couldn’t be stopped with just an inhaler no matter how hard they tried. He already knew it meant a stay in the hospital, however long it would be, and he hated that his body was so weak. It didn’t matter that the others were telling him that it was fine, because he knew it wasn’t. 

He was reminded of when he’d been a lot younger and had attacks like these much more often. Even Tenn’s soothing voice hadn’t been able to help him calm down, and so many times he’d thought that he would end up dying. But back then he hadn’t had to live up to anyone’s expectations except his own; now he had an arena full of fans waiting for him to get back on stage and perform for the encore, and he couldn’t do even that. 

Riku gasped out his sobs, digging his fingers into the hem of Iori’s jacket and crumpling it. Completely at a loss as to what to do, Iori set the inhaler down, knowing now that it would take more than a measly inhaler to quell Riku’s attack. “I-I’m...  sorry... I’m sorry!” 

“Shh. It’s okay, Nanase-san. You’ll be alright. Please don’t cry,” Iori pleaded, arms aching to wrap around Riku’s shoulders and scent him, comfort him. It was all he could do to release calming pheromones, although he could tell that they weren’t helping at all, and squeeze Riku’s arm in assurance. He didn’t want to hug Riku and make it even harder for him to breathe than it already was. 

“Riku, don’t cry... it’ll only worsen the attack,” Nagi told him. When Mitsuki returned to stand beside him, Nagi asked, “How long till they get here?” 

“Five minutes or so,” Mitsuki replied, eyes wide with concern for Riku. “I hope he’ll be alright.” 

“I’m sorr-” 

“Riku-kun, it’s okay,” Sougo chimed in, having just rushed backstage from closing the concert. “Just breathe. Slowly, slowly.” 

“Rikkun, are you okay? Do you need me to carry you on my back?” 

Again, Riku shook his head, tears streaming down his face as he tried to get his breathing to be a little less laboured. The last thing he wanted was to work himself up into a panic attack. “Manager- and everyone... tried their best for me... but even so... 

“Be quiet,” Nagi said in a soothing voice. “Don’t think about it. Riku; you fought your hardest. Your feelings, your wishes – they all came across. Rest assured. I promise, nothing tragic will occur. There is nothing to worry about.” 

Riku didn’t say anything, simply tightened his grip on Iori’s jacket. 

“Nanase-san...” was all Iori could say, feeling utterly useless as he watched his boyfriend continue to suffer from his asthma attack. It was only slightly better than a few minutes ago, and there was absolutely no way any of them were letting Riku get out of a visit to the hospital. They couldn’t possibly let him go home with them in his condition. 

The ambulance sirens could be heard soon enough, and the paramedics quickly loaded Riku onto a stretcher before whisking him off to the hospital. 

 

--- 

 

“I...ori?” 

Iori’s head snapped up from the documents he’d been looking through, eyes wide with relief as he looked at the now-awake Riku. “Oh, thank god, you’re awake,” Iori said, the words gushing out of him all at once. The uncomfortable pressure that’d been suffocating him vanished immediately, and Iori let the documents fall to the ground as he moved to pull Riku into a gentle hug. He was careful to avoid the IV drip by the side. “I was so worried.” 

“I’m sorry,” Riku apologised, for what seemed like the thousandth time that day. 

“I’m sorry too, for forcing your inhaler on you,” Iori grimaced, recalling the way Riku had vehemently refused to take his medication. There'd been nothing he could’ve done about it; there’d been a chance that the inhaler would have been able to stop the attack, and Iori wasn’t about to let Riku needlessly suffer because he wanted to go back on stage. None of them would have let him, anyway. “How’re you feeling? Do you need me to call the doctor?” 

Riku managed a small smile, shaking his head in response. “It’s fine,” he replied, voice still raspy and hoarse from coughing so violently after the concert. “Can you...” 

“Water, right? I’ll be right back.” 

Iori picked up the papers that had fallen to the floor, arranging them properly and setting them on the table before grabbing the empty jug and leaving the room. 

Riku glanced at the stack of papers curiously, picking up the first one and scanning through its contents. It was mostly about IDOLiSH7’s achievements since debut, such as their first sold-out concert and the sales of their albums. Riku had never been one to keep up meticulously with their sale, not nearly as much as Iori did, so some of the numbers on Iori’s report surprised him. 

The door to his room slid open, and Riku glanced up from the report to see that Iori had returned with a jug full of water. He waited until the omega filled a cup with water and handed it to him before asking, “Hey, Iori? What’re you planning to do with these documents?” 

“You looked at them?” 

“Was I not supposed to?” 

“I guess there’s nothing wrong with that,” Iori shrugged, taking the piece of paper back from Riku and placing it on top of the stack. He sat back down on the chair beside Riku’s bed, looking pointedly at the untouched cup of water in Riku’s hand. “Drink your water, Nanase-san. I’m just preparing these at Manager’s request; I’m not sure what she wants them for.” 

It was a total lie, really. Tsumugi had no idea that Iori had gone to retrieve all these data and compiled them into a report before coming to the hospital to visit Riku. He hadn’t had the time to properly sort everything out yet, but he wanted to at least be able to go through them once and then figure out how to arrange them in a presentable fashion. 

He wasn’t about to let Zero Arena’s owner judge them based on just one live, especially not when Riku had tried to fight tooth and nail just to return to stage for the encore. If he had been in any better of a condition, Iori was sure that Riku might just have used his alpha voice to get Iori to back off. Riku was ridiculously headstrong when it came to matters such as these, and he often acted on instinct. 

It wasn’t that Iori couldn’t understand Riku’s desire to properly do the encore, but the alpha had to know his own limits. Even if they’d let Riku go back on stage and perform the songs they’d had lined up for the encore, there was no way he could’ve performed them at an acceptable standard, not with the way he’d been wheezing and coughing. It would’ve only made the fans worried for him. 

“Is that so,” Riku said, seemingly unconvinced. He downed the rest of the water, putting the cup down on the table and holding his hands out expectantly. Iori raised a brow, wondering what exactly Riku wanted and causing the alpha to puff his cheeks up. “Can I scent you? I’m not going to lie; I actually feel terrible. Please?” 

Iori hesitated for a moment, unsure if a hospital staff would suddenly pop in to check on Riku’s condition and catch them in a compromising position. But Riku was looking at him so earnestly, and Iori could tell from his scent that he was, indeed, feeling less than stellar. And it wasn’t a particularly difficult or unreasonable request to carry out, if only Iori could lock the doors to Riku’s ward. 

“Only if you make it really fast,” Iori decided eventually, sighing inwardly when Riku’s face lit up and he nodded eagerly. Iori, again, had to manoeuvre around the IV drip to lean down and let himself be pulled into Riku’s waiting arms. 

Riku pulled Iori down until he could easily bury his face in the crook of the omega’s neck, nuzzling Iori’s scent glands and letting Iori’s scent wash over him. It was calming, as it always was, and Riku felt the tension slowly seep out of his body. 

He was still worried about not being able to make it for the encore during their live, worried about what kind of impression it would leave on Zero Arena’s owner and his team. After all, what kind of centre missed the encore? 

It was less than a minute later that Riku let go of Iori, but not before sneaking a quick kiss to Iori’s cheek. 

“W-what was that for...” Iori mumbled, glancing worriedly at the door that was still closed. “Someone could’ve seen that!” 

“But nobody’s here,” Riku pouted indignantly. “Anyway! You can get back to whatever you were doing. I won’t disturb you, I promise. Manager wants those documents looked through, right?” 

“Well, yeah.” Iori felt terrible for lying to Riku about something as minor as this, but he knew that if he told Riku the truth, the alpha would feel even worse about himself. Looking through reports of IDOLiSH7’s achievements was no big deal; it wasn’t like Iori was overworking himself by doing this. 

It wasn’t just for Riku’s sake that he wanted to convince Zero Arena’s owner to let them perform on the second day of the concert, either. It was important that IDOLiSH7 snagged the chance, in order to further establish themselves as one of the biggest rising groups in Japan. But, of course, making sure that Riku didn’t overwhelm himself with guilt was probably the biggest reason that Iori was going to this extent. 

True to his word, Riku kept quiet as Iori continued to look through the various reports, scrolling through his phone idly. A nurse came in to check on him as well as bring him dinner, after which the alpha promptly fell asleep. 

Iori worked silently, scribbling notes all over the reports diligently. He hadn’t even realised that Riku was sleeping until he glanced up to check the time, noticing that visiting hours were nearly over and that his boyfriend was already asleep. Even in his sleep, Riku’s breaths seemed to be uneven. 

The omega packed his belongings, trying not to accidentally wake Riku up. “See you tomorrow, Nanase-san,” Iori whispered, pressing a soft kiss to Riku’s forehead. 

On his way back to the dorm, Iori stopped by a cafe, picking up a hot coffee with an extra shot of espresso. He had a feeling he’d need it. 

 

--- 

 

It was early the next morning that Tsumugi went to fetch Riku from the hospital, and even when Iori heard the door to Riku’s room open, and then close, he didn’t go to greet Riku immediately. 

He was fairly certain he had impressive eyebags at this point, and his hair was probably dishevelled and he was not at all presentable. If Riku saw him like this, the alpha wouldn’t be very pleased. He could already imagine the way Riku would pout and complain that Iori wasn’t taking care of himself properly. 

Riku hadn’t come knocking on Iori’s door, either, and although Iori was slightly confused as to why Riku wasn’t looking for him, he wasn’t exactly complaining. It was only after he’d properly washed up and made himself look less like the dead that he’d gone to check on his boyfriend. 

Riku was asleep, curled up on his bed, and Iori went over to adjust the blanket to ensure that Riku was fully covered. As he did so, Riku stirred, blinking blearily at Iori and mumbling, “Morning, Iori.” 

“Good morning, Nanase-san,” Iori greeted with a gentle smile. For Riku to still be sleeping, even though he’d just returned from the hospital, was a clear enough indicator of how completely exhausted he was from his treatment. Iori didn’t want to disturb his rest any more than necessary, so when Riku made to get up, he pushed the alpha back down onto his bed. “Just sleep. I’m heading to the office for a bit. I’ll try to make it quick.” 

Eyes fluttering shut once more, Riku nodded. “Okay. Love you.” 

The corners of Iori’s lips tugged upwards involuntarily, and Iori replied, “I love you too.” 

After making sure that Riku was asleep, Iori left the alpha’s room. He went back to his room to pick up the reports that he’d been going through the entire night, as well as the additional documents he’d printed out. He left for the office after making sure everything was in order, immediately heading for the filing room to look for more supporting documents. 

It took him less than half an hour to get everything sorted out, then Iori went to find Tsumugi, inform her that he would be going out to run a quick errand. “Good morning,” the omega greeted, nodding politely at Tsumugi and Banri. 

Tsumugi smiled warmly at Iori. “Good mor-”, the beta greeted, cutting herself off when she registered the ridiculous stack of files that Iori was currently holding. “Iori-san!? What’s the matter!? What’s with that mountain of files... And you look like you didn’t sleep a lot last night.” 

Iori glanced down at the files in his arms, ignoring the second half of Tsumugi’s statement. She didn’t need to know that he’d stayed up all night to prepare these reports. “I’m going to go pay the Zero Arena owner a visit and present to him all of IDOLiSH7’s achievements. He can’t just form an opinion of us from yesterday’s live alone.” 

“Eh!?” 

“Good morning,” Yamato greeted, striding into the office as well. 

Tsumugi looked away from Iori briefly, only to be taken aback by Yamato as well. “Yamato-san, what’s going on? Why are you wearing a suit...?” she asked in confusion. 

The leader shrugged. “I’m going to talk face-to-face with Zero Arena’s owner.” 

“What!?” 

“To be honest, I was never that attached to this whole reopening concert thing,” Yamato admitted, shrugging again. “But it’ll bother Riku, especially with how things are going – and we all know that stress is detrimental to his body.” 

“Nanase-san’s state of mind doesn’t concern me,” because I know he’s strong enough to get over this. But it’ll affect his health, and that, I mind, “but I do mind the idea of determining IDOLiSH7’s worth just from one live performance.” 

Iori didn’t need to voice his real intentions aloud for the betas, as well as Banri, to know why he was going to this extent. It had always been, and would always be, for Riku’s sake that Iori would go to such lengths. IDOLiSH7 was important as well, but without Riku, there would be no IDOLiSH7 to speak of. 

That, and Iori just hated to see Riku pushing himself so hard. If there was any way that he was able to make things easier for the alpha, he would do it. 

Nodding in agreement, Yamato said, “Exactly that. I don’t care about this owner dude, but he needs to watch at least ten of our lives to decide. He doesn’t even know how hard Riku worked yesterday.” 

“We’re going to make him regret dropping us on the basis of last night’s live.” 

“You’re onto something, Ichi!” Yamato grinned approvingly. It wasn’t difficult to tell how worried Iori was about Riku, even if Yamato couldn’t smell his scent. 

After they’d returned to the dorm yesterday, Iori had gone straight to his room without even eating dinner. Then he’d left the dorm in a rush, obviously heading for the hospital to stay with Riku. He didn’t eat after returning from the hospital, either, instead locking himself up in his room for the night. Yamato was no genius, but he could see from Iori’s eyebags that the omega had stayed up for a significant portion of the night, if not the entire night. 

Iori smirked. “He won’t even know what hit him!” 

Eyes wide, Tsumugi looked to Banri for help, but received only a helpless smile in response. “U-um...” 

The doorbell rang suddenly, and all heads turned to the door. Raising a curious brow, Yamato went to let their guest in. “This early in the morning? Who is it? Come on in.” 

“I’m Zero Arena’s owner, Tanaka.” 

Iori exchanged a smile with Yamato; this would make their job a lot easier. 

“Welcome!” 

Chapter Text

The members of IDOLiSH7, save for Riku, had been called into the meeting room while Banri entertained Tanaka with small talk about their company. Their group schedule wasn’t until evening, and the other members had been lounging around in the dorm, enjoying their short reprieve from back-to-back schedules. 

At the moment, the six boys, along with Tsumugi, were seated in front of Tanaka. The man wore a kind smile on his face, and Iori wanted to believe that he bore positive news for them. He was prepared to argue with Tanaka if he had to, but he’d very much rather things didn’t come to that. 

He started off by praising their performance, telling them that it was splendid, that he could feel a hint of Zero’s lives in their performances. That although there were still a few rough patches that could’ve been improved on, he was moved by their sense of togetherness. 

Tsumugi, understandably, was rather flustered by Tanaka praising the staging. She’d been worried that it wouldn’t have turned out the way she wanted to, so for her efforts to be acknowledged by none other than Zero Arena’s owner himself was an honour. 

“The first day of the reopening concert is TRIGGER, and the last day is Re:vale,” he continued, stating the facts that they already knew. Then his smile widened as he said, “And I think we’ll go with IDOLiSH7 for the second day.” 

“So, then...” Mitsuki asked unsurely. 

“Yes. We would love to have you perform at Zero Arena’s reopening concert.” 

“We did it!” 

“However, there is something I am concerned about,” Tanaka added, brows furrowing into a frown as he looked over the members currently present. “There are six people here at the moment, but where is the centre? He didn’t perform in last night’s encore either.” 

Iori glanced at Tsumugi, subtly shaking his head and hoping that she would get the hint. Riku’s health condition wasn’t something that they wanted to let outsiders know about, especially not Zero Arena’s owner. If he knew that Riku had a chronic lung condition, there was a high possibility that he might retract his offer for them to perform. 

Tsumugi bit on her lip hesitantly. While she understood where Iori was coming from, she also didn’t feel that it was right to blatantly lie to Tanaka. After all, he was offering them the chance to perform at Zero Arena’s reopening concert. The least they could do was tell him the truth about Riku’s absence from the encore. ”Nanase-san is currently unwell...” she replied. 

Tanaka hummed in understanding. “Does he get sick often?” 

Before Tsumugi could reply, and potentially reveal more about Riku’s condition than was acceptable, Iori cut in. “No. Last night was just the result of a lot of built-up exhaustion. Normally there aren’t any issues,” he assured, noticing the way Yamato immediately shot him a disapproving look. 

“Ichi...” 

“Please forgive us for showing you such a performance last night. We will definitely follow through for our reopening concert.” 

Nodding, Tanaka said, “I see. That’s a relief to hear. I look forward to working with you all for the reopening concert. Please breathe life into those holy grounds again, alongside TRIGGER and Re:vale. Give us a thrill.” 

“Yes!” 

 

--- 

 

Iori stood up, about to leave the meeting room to grab some water before returning all the files he’d taken earlier that morning. He was stopped by a hand on his arm, and he glanced back to see that it was Yamato. “Yes, Nikaidou-san?” 

“Ichi. Why did you say that?” 

“What?” Iori asked, though he knew fully well what Yamato was referring to. 

With a long suffering sigh, the beta retorted, “Don’t play dumb. I’m referring to what you said about Riku – why did you lie about his physical condition?” 

Iori frowned. Yamato knew as well as he did that it wasn’t good for anyone outside of Takanashi Productions to know about Riku’s condition. Sure, maybe Iori had overpromised, because not even Iori could be certain that his boyfriend would be able to perform for the entire reopening concert. But it wasn’t as if they could’ve just told Tanaka about it; the news could’ve spread, and IDOLiSH7 could be denied future appearances on music shows. 

Besides, Iori knew that Riku wouldn’t have wanted them to tell Tanaka about his health. If Riku could go to the extent of wanting to perform the encore, even as bad as his attack had been last night, he definitely wouldn’t want his condition to be exposed. This, Iori knew for a fact, and the omega agreed with the alpha that they shouldn’t carelessly let others find out about his condition. 

“Nanase-san has been able to perform until the end of lives up through now. He should be able to continue doing so,” Iori reasoned, not bothering to explain the long and short of the issue. They all knew how ridiculously hard-headed Riku could be, as if he hadn’t proved that just the night prior. 

“Ichi... You’ve told me before that you were secretly helping out with managing the group.” 

It'd been the night when IDOLiSH7 had very nearly been disbanded. Iori hadn’t thought that there would be any harm done, revealing the truth to Yamato. The beta wasn’t the type to run his mouth, after all, and they had been on the verge of disbanding. “...I didn’t mean to let that slip. Please keep it a secret.” 

“I didn’t intend on telling anyone, but, Ichi. Please think about Riku’s feelings a little bit more,” Yamato advised, genuinely worried for their centre. Iori would never intentionally hurt Riku, Yamato knew that, but the omega had a tendency to be fixated on whatever desired outcome he had in mind. In this aspect, the couple was frighteningly similar. When there was a goal that they were working towards, both Riku and Iori could develop a rather serious case of tunnel vision. 

Iori raised a brow almost incredulously. “...Nanase-san’s feelings?” he repeated, wondering if he’d heard Yamato wrongly. If anything, Riku’s feelings were all he’d been thinking about. Riku was the one who’d wanted to do the reopening concert most, and Iori wasn’t about to let the alpha’s hard work go to waste by telling Tanaka about his condition. 

And now Nikaidou-san's lecturing me about not thinking about Nanase-san's feelings? 

Sighing again, Yamato pursed his lips. “Riku’s a really honest guy, and he’s serious, too. He always tries his best, no matter what it is. On top of that, he has an illness that’s susceptible to stress. I understand wanting to charge in along with him when it’s time to fight, but...” the beta paused, trying to phrase his sentence in a way that wouldn’t come across as offensive. “Don’t burden him too much; you’ll crush Riku like that. Just look at what happened yesterday.” 

“I am of the opposite opinion,” Iori responded firmly. “I’m guilty I couldn’t let Nanase-san sing.” 

“Did you want him to sing until he collapsed?” Yamato asked in disbelief. 

What? That is not what I intended. You don’t really think that I’d go that far, do you? Regardless of how much I wanted the fans to see Nanase-san's encore performance... he’s still my alpha. I’m still worried about him.” 

Yamato blinked in surprise. He hadn’t quite been expecting such blunt honesty from Iori. “Well, all of this just means Producer Izumi has great expectations for Riku, doesn’t it?” he chuckled exasperatedly. “Be careful. You, me, and Riku, we’re all just human. If you’re too caught up in your plans or ideals... Even if all the gears are spinning just fine, they’ll start to slip out of place.” 

“...I understand,” Iori said, lips pressed into a firm line. “Then, if you’ll excuse me.” 

“Don’t push him too hard,” Yamato reminded, receiving only a nod in response before Iori walked out of the meeting room. 

 

--- 

 

Sougo looked up from his phone when he heard the door open, smiling when he saw that it was Iori who’d returned. “I’m back,” Iori called out, carefully putting his shoes aside. 

“Welcome home, Iori-kun. Riku-kun and I are going to go get food. Do you want to come with us?” Sougo asked. It was nearing noon, now, and he didn’t suppose Iori had eaten lunch yet. In fact, Sougo wondered if Iori had eaten anything at all since last night. “He’s been worried that you were mad at him for not performing the encore, and I did tell him that wasn’t the case, but...” 

Iori hesitated, thinking about what Yamato had just told him. Had he really been neglecting Riku’s feelings? He'd always thought that he’d been doing what was right, what Riku wanted. Maybe he had been doing that, but that didn’t necessarily mean that Iori had been doing what was best for Riku. What Riku wanted wasn’t always in line with what was good for him. 

With a small sigh, Iori shook his head. Maybe Yamato was right in saying that Iori had to think more about Riku’s feelings. Not just about what the alpha wanted, but also about the best course of action to take for Riku’s wellbeing. “Sorry, but I can’t make it. I have something else I must do. Please assure Nanase-san that I’m definitely not angry at him. And please look after him when you’re out.” 

“I see...” Sougo said. “I’ll let him know. And, of course I will.” 

“Souchan,” Tamaki called out from his spot in the kitchen. “I’ll go with you guys and carry your shopping for you. Just let me clean this area.” 

“Thanks. How gallant of you, Tamaki-kun. You cleaned up the living room too!” Sougo praised, unable to help but chuckle when his alpha beamed proudly at him. It wasn’t very often that Sougo had a chance to praise Tamaki – most times he was just nagging him to do something or to go somewhere. He’s cute when he’s being praised, huh. 

“It’s because Rikkun’s sick.” 

“Indeed.” 

“...and my mum died because she was sick.” 

“I-is that so...” Sougo muttered, glancing at Iori as the younger quietly went back out of the dorm. 

It wasn’t as if Sougo hadn’t known that Tamaki’s mother had died due to illness, but for Tamaki to be so direct about it was unusual. As blunt as Tamaki was about almost everything, the topic of his family was a sort of taboo. Tamaki was alright with talking about finding Aya, but he preferred not to bring up his deceased mother. 

In the rare events that Tamaki did mention his mother, there would almost always be a sort of sadness in his scent. There still was, but Sougo could also smell acceptance in Tamaki’s scent. It’d been over a decade since she’d passed away, after all. 

Sougo wasn’t complaining; he was glad that Tamaki was slowly, but surely, opening up to him. He watched as Tamaki wrung the rag, hanging it to dry before turning to look at the omega. Walking over and picking up Sougo’s bag from the chair, Tamaki asked, “Is it okay if I carry this? Anything else?” 

“It’s fine. Thank you, Tamaki-kun. Wait here while I get Riku-kun.” 

Tamaki nodded, and Sougo headed to Riku’s room where the alpha was resting. He knocked on the door before opening it, poking his head through the door quietly in case Riku had fallen asleep again. 

Riku glanced toward his door when he heard it open, trying not to show his disappointment when he saw that it wasn’t Iori. Iori’s scent had come and gone in the span of a few minutes; Riku already knew that his boyfriend wasn’t in his room, and neither was he in the dorm, but he still hoped. “Iori...?” 

Sougo flashed Riku an apologetic smile. “He said he had something else to attend to, but he says that he’s not angry at you regarding the encore,” Sougo assured. “Tamaki-kun will be coming with us instead, if that’s alright.” 

Riku’s shoulders sagged in both disappointment and relief. He knew that Iori was busy helping Tsumugi with management matters, so he couldn’t be selfish and demand Iori to spend time with him. The omega had already stayed with him at the hospital despite having had work to do. If Iori had any spare time outside of school and work, Riku would much rather the omega got some proper rest. 

That didn’t mean he wasn’t still lonely without Iori. 

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Riku replied, climbing out of bed and grabbing his jacket and bag. “Let’s go.” 

They met Tamaki by the entrance of the dorm, and Tamaki took Riku’s bag from him. “Tamaki, it’s-” 

“I’ll hold it,” Tamaki said firmly, not giving Riku a chance to complete his sentence. “You’re still sick.” 

With a sigh and pout, Riku nodded defeatedly. “Is there anything you guys want to eat?” Riku asked as he pulled his jacket on, opening the door and grimacing as the cold wind blew into the entryway. When the couple shook their heads, Riku said, “I was thinking of eating katsudon.” 

“Then we’ll eat katsudon,” Sougo chuckled, “my treat.” 

“Eh? It’s fine, I can pay for it!” 

“Iori-kun specifically told me to take care of you,” Sougo told the alpha in a teasing manner, eliciting an embarrassed pout from Riku. 

Beside him, Tamaki snickered. “Just accept it, Rikkun. It's not like Souchan can’t afford it.” 

“Tamaki-kun!” 

“Is that so... I guess it’s fine...” Riku mumbled. The fact that Iori had to ask Sougo for such a favour was, while endearing, also rather frustrating. It was bad enough that Iori had probably worried about Riku for the entire night; even when Iori was busy with other matters, he’d taken the time to request Sougo to look after Riku in his stead. Riku felt loved, but he also felt terribly inadequate. Some alpha I am. 

The restaurant was only down the street from the dorm, and the trio made their way there quickly, not wanting to stay out in the cold for any longer than necessary. Sougo placed their orders before joining Riku and Tamaki by the side. “Did Manager tell you yet? We got to do the reopening concert.” 

Riku’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second, then the redhead heaved a relieved sigh. “The reopening concert... I’m glad IDOLiSH7 was chosen for the second day... I’m glad I didn’t hold everyone back...” he muttered to himself. He’d been constantly worrying about it during his stay in the hospital; he knew how much some of them had wanted to be able to take on this role. He didn’t want to be the reason that they weren’t able to clinch the deal. 

Tamaki shrugged. “I’m just glad you’re healthy again, Rikkun. Super glad.” 

Scratching his cheek sheepishly, Riku said, “I’m generally okay in the afternoon. But in the morning or at night, it gets pretty bad. Sorry for coughing so loudly at night.” 

Sougo waved his apology off with a disapproving frown. “Don’t worry about that. It doesn’t affect us as much as it affects you. Is there anything you’d like?” he asked. “You did mention that your older brother and I are similar, back when we were still trainees. When you had attacks, what did your brother do for you? If it’s not too difficult, I could try to do the same.” 

“Souchan and Tenten are similar?” Tamaki questioned incredulously. He thought of TRIGGER’s centre, trying to see where exactly their similarities lay. He couldn’t think of any. Eyeing his boyfriend warily, the alpha asked, “So... does he also stab things with kitchen knives and try to hit people with computers?” 

“This again... Tamaki-kun, that was...” Sougo sighed, looking troubled. He supposed it was nobody’s fault but his own that Tamaki was scarred by those incidents. It wasn’t like he’d wanted to act like that, but it was hard to think rationally when he was angry. “I just lost my temper, that’s all.” 

Just? Lost your temper? That’s all?” the alpha asked with a raised brow. “You threatened me with a knife! And tried to drop a computer on that Akihito guy’s head!” 

“Don’t be so loud, Tamaki-kun!” Sougo hissed, hyperaware of the fact that they were out in public. The restaurant wasn’t too crowded, per se, but there were eyes on them wherever they went. The omega always made sure to be careful with his words with public, although his partner was considerably less careful. Sougo tried to remind Tamaki to be less loose with his words, but the alpha was carefree as he usually was. 

Riku paid the bickering couple no heed, instead thinking of a way to respond to Sougo’s question. It seemed like so long ago that Tenn had been with him while he was sick; it had been over four, nearly five, years since Tenn had left. “Tenn-nii would do... anything and everything for me,” he said, a wistful smile on his face. They were the same age, born barely minutes apart, but Tenn had had assumed so much responsibility even then. 

The counter staff called out to them suddenly, and Tamaki hurried to collect their orders. Once he had their food with him, the trio left the restaurant and headed back for the dorm. 

They settled back down at the dining room, starting on their lunch before resuming their conversation again. “Anything and everything?” Sougo asked curiously. “Such as?” 

“He’d sing for me, read for me... Our parents worked at night, so whenever I was in pain, Tenn-nii would stay by my side. Whenever I had attacks, I couldn’t sleep even if I laid down, so I’d use Tenn-nii’s stomach as a pillow. And just like that, I’d feel much better and fall sound asleep,” Riku said. “That’s why whenever my attacks get really bad, I just can’t help but remember – how things were like back when Tenn-nii was there, and how things were after Tenn-nii left.” 

Tamaki didn’t look any less confused, but he nodded nonetheless. “I see... They’re not that similar though, are they? When I’m upset, Souchan doesn’t let me lie on his stomach,” the alpha pouted, looking pointedly at his boyfriend. “I guess he does pat my head and buy pudding for me sometimes...” 

“That’s because you’re heavy, Tamaki-kun,” Sougo chuckled exasperatedly. “Besides, you don’t ask to lie on my stomach, do you? You only ever ask me to get pudding for you.” 

“Well, yeah, but still.” 

A knock sounded on the door, and Tsumugi poked her head into the living area. “It’s just me. Is it alright if I come in?” she asked. 

“Ah, go ahead.” 

“Riku-san, how are you feeling?” 

Riku managed a grin, hoping that it was enough to assure Tsumugi that he was feeling much better compared to last night. “I’m fine. I’m at the point where I’m okay even when I’m awake!” 

“With that,” Sougo cut in, getting up from his seat and picking up his empty takeaway box, “we should be on our way. Let’s go, Tamaki-kun. We have to get ready for our photoshoot.” 

The alpha nodded. “Alright. Manager, you should be Rikkun’s pillow. Your stomach is way softer than ours, so yeah.” He and Sougo quickly rinsed the boxes and put them in the respective trash bags, bowing politely to Tsumugi before leaving the room and closing the door behind them. 

 

--- 

 

“Pillow...?” Tsumugi asked, sounding extremely confused. 

Riku grimaced; he certainly hadn’t meant to offend Tsumugi. “T-that idiot!” 

“My stomach is... soft?” 

“I-it’s nothing!” Riku stuttered, desperate to change the topic. It was one thing if Tsumugi was offended by Tamaki’s comment, but another thing altogether if Iori returned to the dorm suddenly. Riku definitely didn’t want Iori to think that he’d said something inappropriate to Tsumugi. 

Not that he’d ever entertain the idea of cheating, but misunderstandings could lead to a whole lot of problems. One round of misunderstandings was more than enough for Riku; he didn’t need it to happen again. “Ah, um...! Oh! Let’s see what’s on TV!” 

The alpha switched the TV on, and immediately an advertisement featuring a very topless Tsunashi Ryuunosuke appeared onscreen. Riku choked on his saliva, prompting a panicked Tsumugi to ask, “A-are you okay!? Riku-san!” 

“Did you forget that I’m a man? Don’t blame me for what happens tonight.”  

It took more than a few moments for Riku to regain his composure, but he eventually managed a smile and a, “I’m okay! Uh, let’s change the channel!” 

The alpha hurriedly flipped to the next channel, which admittedly was no better than before. Instead of Ryuunosuke, it was now TRIGGER’s leader who was on the screen. “When a man and a woman are alone in a room… There’s only one thing that can happen.” 

Eyes wide, Riku pressed the switch channel button again. This time, it was none other than his twin who appeared on the screen. I love you – shall I say it? To you, of course.” 

“Te- Te...” Riku trailed off, eventually switching the TV off entirely. “...maybe not TV then.” 

“Y-yes...” the beta agreed with an awkward smile. “Um, so what was this about my stomach being soft...? Something about using it as a pillow?” 

Riku’s cheeks flushed pink, and the alpha quickly replied, “It’s nothing! Nothing at all! I was just talking about what Tenn-nii used to do when I was sick, and one of the things he did was let me lie down on his stomach! That’s why Tamaki said something like that!” 

A brief look of understanding crossed Tsumugi’s face, and Riku couldn’t help but heave a small sigh of relief. It was one thing for Tsumugi to misinterpret Tamaki’s words, and another thing entirely if she ever mentioned it to Iori. The omega would likely know that Tamaki had just phrased his words badly, as he always did, but Riku still worried that Iori would get angry anyway. Jealousy and possessiveness could be a scary thing. 

“While I do agree that my stomach is probably softer than Iori-san's, considering the amount of physical activity you all do, I still think that you should ask Iori-san instead,” Tsumugi said, as if Riku didn’t already know that. “I don’t suppose he’ll be very happy to see his alpha lying down on someone else’s stomach, even if I’m just a beta and your manager.” 

Grimacing, Riku said, “No offense, Manager, but I wasn’t going to ask that of you anyway.” 

An awkward silence fell over the two, both unsure of what they should say next. They both had things to say about what happened during the encore of last night’s concert, but the topic of Tsumugi’s supposedly soft stomach hadn’t exactly made it easy for either of them to breach the topic. 

It was a full minute of looking at each other later that they finally spoke up. 

“So...” 

“So-" Tsumugi said at the same time, cutting Riku off. “Ah, Riku-san, you first!” 

“Oh, no. You go first, Manager.” 

Pursing her lips, Tsumugi nodded. She knew the topic she was about to bring up could be a sensitive one, and she wasn’t entirely sure if Riku would be offended by it. But she had a duty as his manager, and that was to ensure that the idols she managed were in good health. “Alright then... Riku-san, please answer this honestly, okay? Is work painful for you?” 

Riku blinked; he hadn’t been expecting this from the beta. He'd thought she would tell him off for failing to carry out his duty as IDOLiSH7’s centre, for allowing himself to collapse before the concert was over. And yet, all he’d done was cause her to worry about him. “Huh...?” 

“IDOLiSH7 absolutely needs you – it’s not IDOLiSH7 unless you’re there. And yet, even so...” Tsumugi trailed off, brows knit into a frown. “I don’t want to make you push yourself so far, like what happened yesterday. Your health is more important, Riku-san.” 

“I’m fine, Manager. If anything, I’m sorry for causing all this trouble,” Riku apologised, for what seemed to be the nth time in the past two days. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to apologise enough for allowing himself to collapse, especially if he’d caused them to be denied the chance to perform at the reopening concert. “I won’t fail like that again... I’ll take proper care of myself.” 

“Riku-san...” 

Riku offered an assuring smile, although it felt forced even to the alpha himself. “I... I just have to try much, much harder. The weaker you are, the harder you have to try,” he said. He'd already put in so much effort to get into IDOLiSH7; working a little harder wouldn’t kill him. If Iori could juggle school, idol activities, management, and his heats, then Riku could surely do this much. “I’ll make both our show and our reopening concert act succeed. So, don’t worry.” 

Tsumugi heaved a resigned sigh, knowing that whatever she said wouldn’t get through to Riku. Alphas could truly be ridiculously stubborn when they wanted to be. She was glad that, at the very least, Riku had Iori to reign him in, even if only barely. 

She, too, shared the same concerns as Yamato; Iori had a tendency to be fixated on his desired end goal, and sometimes he forgot to be careful about the means he used to obtain said goal. He would never intentionally hurt Riku, Tsumugi knew that. Iori did love his alpha. But Iori wasn’t perfect, and neither was Riku. “I got it. Just make sure to take care of your health as well.” 

“I will.” 

“Then, I should get going,” Tsumugi said, glancing at the clock. “Please let me know if you need help with anything. Rest well for tonight’s schedule!” 

Nodding, Riku saw Tsumugi to the door. “Good luck at work, Manager.” 

The beta smiled and nodded before walking out, heading back to the car and driving off to meet Nagi at his photoshoot location. She couldn’t help but wonder if it’d be better if she was able to smell their scents, be able to tell whether or not they were lying, or stressed, or worried. 

But being a beta did mean that she didn’t have to worry about shirking her duties as a manager due to heats or ruts. Those duties included making sure that their centre didn’t recklessly overwork himself to the point of collapse. Sighing softly to herself, Tsumugi muttered, “What’s the right thing to do?” 

Chapter Text

Iori sighed, strolling down the streets in an attempt to clear his mind. He couldn’t help thinking about what Yamato had told him, and the omega was seriously beginning to doubt his ability to judge what was good for Riku. 

All this time, he’d been thinking that going along with Riku’s wishes was the best course of action, as long as it was also beneficial to IDOLiSH7’s reputation. Iori wasn’t going to object if Riku wanted to work harder in order to increase their popularity, although he did prefer it if the alpha could be more careful with his own health. 

But Iori also knew that Riku hated feeling useless or, worse, like a burden to the group. It was the main reason why he’d even pushed himself so hard, regardless of the fact that he’d been having such a serious attack last night. Yamato couldn’t possibly know how Riku truly felt – as a beta, he only knew what Riku voiced aloud. 

Iori understood where Yamato was coming from, and the omega would be lying if he said that he wasn’t the least bit worried about his boyfriend. There was a limit to how nonchalant he could act, and Yamato’s implication that Iori wasn’t considering Riku’s feelings had pushed past that limit. Iori cared, too much, which was why he wanted to be the one to make Riku into a superstar. To surpass TRIGGER and Tenn, whom Riku had looked up to all his life. 

Iori was aware of the fans trailing behind him, but he didn’t have the energy to entertain them at the moment. He needed to figure out what he should do from here on; whether he should continue to do as Riku wanted, or if he should occasionally disagree, if he felt that Riku was pushing himself too hard. 

He continued to walk along the shophouses, beginning to feel the effects of staying up all night. He didn’t have much to do in regards to work, and entrance exams had already ended, and he could return to the dorm and rest for the rest of the afternoon. But he wasn’t sure how to face his boyfriend, though he knew that Riku wouldn’t be upset at him for anything. 

He ended up walking past the bakery near their dorm, and the omega briefly glanced at the display. A smile tugged at his lips when he saw that they had come up with a few new flavours for their donuts, and after a moment’s hesitation, Iori pushed the door to the bakery open. 

“Welcome, how may we help you?” the counter staff asked, eyes widening when she saw that it was Iori who’d come into the store. “IDOLiSH7’s Iori-san!?” 

“Good morning,” the omega greeted politely. “Could I have two of each of these please?” 

“Of course! Would you like anything else?” 

Taking the bag from the staff, Iori said, “It’s fine. Thank you very much.” Then he left the bakery, offering the fans a small smile before heading back in the direction of the dorm. 

Iori met Tsumugi at the entrance to the dorm, just as she was about to get into the car. “Manager.” 

“Iori-san! Have you had your lunch?” 

“Not yet. Don’t worry about me. Has Nanase-san eaten?” 

Tsumugi chuckled. “Yes,” she assured. A conflicted look came across her features, and the beta wondered if she should ask Iori for his opinion regarding what she should do. She already had a vague idea of how IDOLiSH7 should continue from here on, but she had a feeling that Iori wouldn’t be too approving of it. “I have something to discuss with you before tonight’s schedule.” 

Iori raised a questioning brow. “Okay...?” 

“I’ll come and drive you and Riku-san to the studio tonight. Until then, please take a nap,” she instructed firmly. “You look like you didn’t sleep last night. Am I right?” 

Shrugging, Iori replied, “Who knows. You’d better get going.” 

“Yes, yes. See you two later.” 

Iori waited until Tsumugi drove away before going into the dorm, peeking into the living area to see if Riku was there. As expected, the alpha wasn’t there, although Iori could smell that he was in the dorm. 

He didn’t have to go and look for Riku – while he was putting the donuts away, the door to the living area opened, and Riku called out, “Iori, you’re back. Did you eat yet?” 

“...no,” the omega admitted. “I bought donuts from the bakery down the street, though.” 

“That’s hardly a proper lunch,” Riku deadpanned, completely unimpressed. He went over to stand beside Iori, crossing his arms and staring blankly at his boyfriend. When Iori simply stared straight back at him, Riku heaved a sigh. “I’ll make instant ramen for you, okay?” 

“You don’t have to.” 

“I’m going to do it,” Riku announced anyway, sneaking a quick peck onto Iori’s cheek before rummaging the cupboards for a packet of instant ramen. 

Iori felt his cheeks heat up, and he fought back the urge to smile like an idiot. “Thank you, Nanase-san. I actually bought the donuts for you, so if you’d like to have some...” he trailed off, suddenly feeling shy. It wasn’t often that he bought something for Riku, even if it was only donuts. 

A smile stretched across Riku’s face, and the alpha nodded eagerly. “Of course!” 

What a cute person.  

 

--- 

 

Riku reached out, finger brushing over the bags under Iori’s eyes. “You didn’t sleep?” Riku asked. When Iori opened his mouth to reply, Riku frowned and cut him off. “Don’t even try to lie. You’re exhausted. I can smell it.” 

Fine, I didn’t sleep,” Iori said exasperatedly. He made sure to leave out the fact that he’d spent the entire night doing up a report to present to Zero Arena’s owner, just in case he’d decide to deny them the opportunity to perform at the reopening concert. Riku would definitely feel guilty if he knew the truth. “What of it?” 

The alpha pursed his lips disapprovingly. “You need to take better care of yourself.” 

“Coming from you, Nanase-san, that’s not very convincing,” Iori said dryly, taking another bite of his ramen. Riku sat across the table from him, munching on one of the donuts that Iori had bought. When Iori looked up from his bowl of noodles, he was met with the sight of Riku with chocolate stains on his cheek. The omega snickered, grabbing a tissue. “You’re such a messy eater.” 

“Eh? Where?” 

“Here, silly,” Iori chuckled, wiping the stain off and handing the tissue to Riku. “How do you even eat that you managed to dirty your cheek, anyway? Seriously.” 

The alpha grinned cheekily at his boyfriend. “Thanks, Iori! After we’re done eating, do you want to rest until Manager comes to fetch us?” he suggested. “We could both use a little sleep.” 

Iori shrugged. “I was planning on looking over our schedule for next week, but I suppose I could do with some sleep. Wouldn’t want to go to tonight’s schedule looking like the dead,” the omega sighed. The mere thought of their fellow guests for tonight’s show was enough to make Iori feel more tired than he already was. “I can already hear Kujo Tenn lecturing me about professionalism.” 

They were due to appear on a programme together with TRIGGER this evening, making it their first appearance with the previous Male Idol Award winners for the year. Iori was nervous about it, but more than that, he knew that his boyfriend was extremely worried about fumbling their performance. Riku didn’t need to voice any of his concerns aloud; his scent spoke for him, and Iori didn’t want to put any more pressure on Riku than was necessary. 

And Riku was right in saying that Iori needed the sleep, so there was no point in arguing with the alpha. 

“Ah, Manager did say she had something to talk to me about,” Iori recalled suddenly. He wondered what exactly the beta wanted to tell him. “Just a quick nap, then? An hour or so should be enough.” 

“I guess,” Riku pouted, “it’s better than nothing, right?” 

“It is,” Iori agreed, finishing his late lunch and bringing the empty bowl to the sink. 

“I’ll wash it!” 

“You don’t have to,” Iori said with a roll of his eyes, eyeing the half-eaten donut in Riku’s hands. “You’re taking awfully long to finish that donut. Does it not taste good? I was under the impression that you quite liked their baked goods.” 

“T-that’s not it!” Riku countered quickly, staring fixedly at the donut when Iori turned to fix his gaze on him. “It’s just, you bought it for me, so I didn’t want to eat it too quickly.” 

Iori stared blankly at his boyfriend, doing his best to hold back a smile and failing miserably. They’d been together for over half a year now, and still he couldn’t get used to how innocently adorable Riku could be at times. He wasn’t entirely sure if Riku was genuinely just that unaware of the effect his words had on Iori, or if he was doing it to tease the omega. 

Whichever it was, Iori wasn’t sure how to react. He didn’t want to seem too pleased by Riku’s words, but it admittedly felt nice to be appreciated. That, and he just wasn’t able to resist Riku when he was being as cute as this. “Is that so...” the omega muttered, certain that his cheeks were red right now. “I bought quite a few, though. They’re mainly for you, so you can just tell Yotsuba-san not to eat them.” 

“Heh,” Riku chuckled, “all for me?” 

“I mean,” Iori started, gaze darting to the calendar on the wall behind Riku, “it’s White Day today.” 

“It is?” Riku asked in obvious surprise, head whipping around to check the date. “Huh. I didn’t even remember. We didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s, though? You were in the middle of your heat, then we had all those guest appearances.” 

“Loaning me your clothes was good enough,” Iori reminded, hoping that he didn’t sound too much like a typical omega. It'd become a norm for Riku to loan clothes to him for heats, but even though they were a couple, it wasn’t as if Riku was obliged to do so. “We’ll probably miss Valentine’s every other year anyway, with how regular my heats are.” 

“Then we’ll aim to celebrate it early next year!” Riku decided. “With your birthday, then!” 

“I'm touched,” Iori couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m glad you like the donuts, Nanase-san, but could you finish it quickly so that we can rest? At the rate you’re eating, we might not even have time to sleep for an hour. I’m already done washing my bowl.” 

Pouting indignantly, Riku stuffed the rest of the donut into his mouth, causing his cheeks to become puffed up and Iori’s heart to melt a little inside. With how full his mouth was, though, it took a while for the alpha to actually chew and swallow. Iori snorted. “I told you to eat quickly, not to stuff yourself. What if you choke?” 

“I won’t!” Riku assured brightly, dumping the plastic wrapping before throwing his arms around Iori’s neck. He leaned forward to press a kiss to Iori’s cheek. “Thank you for the donuts, Iori. I promise I won’t let Tamaki eat any of them! Can we nap together?” 

The omega raised a sceptical brow, though he wasn’t all that opposed to sleeping with Riku. He would definitely rest better with his alpha, and he desperately just needed a power nap before their schedule later on. It'd also help to assure his inner omega that Riku was fine, especially after the scare he’d had last night. “You’re 100% sure you’re feeling alright?” 

When Riku nodded confidently, Iori let himself lean into Riku’s embrace. “Then okay, let’s go.” 

 

--- 

 

Taking a breath to steady herself, Tsumugi knocked on Iori’s door. “Iori-san?” 

As promised, the beta had come to the dorm a little earlier than needed to drive Riku and Iori to the studio, but not before she had a quick talk with the omega regarding Riku’s condition. She'd spent the past couple of hours thinking of how to properly phrase her words so that Iori would be more open to hear her out. She knew that if he didn’t agree with her at least slightly, there wouldn’t be much room for negotiation at all. 

While Tsumugi was the manager of IDOLiSH7, she knew that she’d relied quite a lot on Iori during the first few months of their formation. She didn’t necessarily have to consult him on this matter, but after putting some thought into it, Tsumugi had still decided that she should get Iori’s opinion. Even if he hadn't helped her out with the group’s management, he was still Riku’s partner. Anything that would potentially affect Riku’s mood would in turn affect Iori, and Tsumugi knew this well enough that she’d opted to speak to Iori anyway. 

She waited for a minute or two, wondering if Iori was still asleep, or was changing into a fresh set of clothes. But when the omega still didn’t open his door, Tsumugi pursed her lips. She knocked on the door again – maybe he didn’t hear me the first time? “Iori-san, are you still sleeping?” she called out again, this time slightly louder than before. 

Tsumugi nearly jumped out of her skin when Riku’s door opened behind her, instead of Iori’s door like she’d been expecting, and Iori said, “Oh, Manager. You’re here already. I haven’t woken Nanase-san yet; if possible, I’d like to give him more time to rest.” 

“You scared me,” Tsumugi breathed out, holding her hand to her chest. In hindsight, she supposed it wasn’t all that odd for Iori to have had been in Riku’s room, but she’d been under the impression that Iori might have opted not to sleep together with Riku. Iori could be like an overprotective mother hen whenever Riku had particularly bad attacks, and he himself avoided being with the alpha too often. He frequently said that he would end up disturbing Riku’s rest, despite the alpha’s assurances that he definitely wouldn’t do so. 

Iori chuckled, apologising half-heartedly. “I didn’t mean to. So, what did you want to talk about?” 

“Ah,” Tsumugi said, teeth worrying at her lower lip. “Would it be fine if we did it somewhere that Riku-san wouldn’t hear? We could go to the other end of the dorms where the heat rooms are. There’re plenty of empty rooms for us to use.” 

“Alright,” Iori conceded, “let me give Nanase-san a quick heads-up.” 

Without waiting for Tsumugi to reply, Iori hurried back into Riku’s room. The alpha was just beginning to stir, blinking blearily against the light filtering in from the corridor. Even though the room was dark, and Iori couldn’t quite see Riku’s face all too clearly, the omega felt that his boyfriend was adorable. “Iori?” 

“You can go back to sleep for a while more,” Iori said, not bothering to turn the lights on. “I have to talk to Manager about something. We shouldn’t take too long.” 

Riku hummed his acknowledgement. “I’ll just get ready while waiting, then.” 

Iori nodded, going back out into the corridor and shutting the door behind him. 

He went with Tsumugi to find an unused heat room, and the beta closed the door before turning to look at Iori. “Iori-san, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you,” she said, brows furrowed in a troubled frown. She really hoped Iori was willing to hear her out. 

“I know,” Iori replied in mild confusion, wondering why Tsumugi was repeating herself. “What is it?” 

“It’s about Riku-san’s physical condition,” she explained, looking slightly nervously at Iori and continuing only when he didn’t seem like he was about to interrupt. “The schedules are only going to get harder and harder from here on out. Guest appearances on other shows to promote A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7, releasing new songs, performing on music shows – all of these will only increase.” 

“I’m aware of that.” 

“I asked the doctor about this, and he told me that Riku’s attacks will worsen since the current season is dry and cool. And after this will be spring, which also means that it will be pollen season. Until Riku-san’s health stabilizes, let’s change IDOLiSH7’s centre. This extends to the show’s theme song, of course...” the beta trailed off, sighing inwardly when she saw the disapproval written clearly on Iori’s face. 

He understood where she was coming from – of course he did. More than anyone else, Iori was the one who spent the most time with Riku, the one who knew Riku best. He knew, even without Riku saying it aloud, that the alpha was suffering from his health. If he didn’t know at least this much, he would never have bothered avoiding his boyfriend in the hopes of letting him get more rest. 

And even so, Iori couldn’t agree with her suggestion. Riku had been working so hard since their win at Black or White, all to prove IDOLiSH7’s worth as the winners. Removing him as the centre now would definitely be a big blow to his pride, both as an alpha and as their centre. It would make it seem as if they were indirectly saying that, as hard as Riku had been working, he was lacking. Iori didn’t want to imagine how hurt Riku would be, even if it meant that he would get a short reprieve. 

“Our show is going to garner national attention. This is a crucial time for us, because even those who hold no interest in newcomer idols will catch a glimpse of our show and acknowledge us,” Iori said. “I refuse to remove Nanase-san as centre. I want people to remember IDOLiSH7 and Nanase-san’s names, even if nobody knows who the rest of us are. If we make a slip here, then Nanase Riku will never be known as IDOLiSH7’s centre.” 

“We’ll definitely change the centre back to Riku-san!” Tsumugi said firmly. 

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Iori sighed. “First impressions are important. If we go against them by changing the centre back to Nanase-san afterwards, there will definitely be backlash. Who were you planning on making the new centre, anyways?” 

Tsumugi averted her gaze from Iori’s. “I... I thought you’d be a good fit.” 

“Me!?” Iori sputtered, eyes wide in surprise. 

Nodding firmly, Tsumugi explained, “I believe that having you, Iori-san, as centre, wouldn’t compromise IDOLiSH7’s image at all. IDOLiSH7 is energetic, young and fresh... and even if you fail, you’ll get up again and rise above it. That time, when you messed up on stage and felt really down about it... I couldn’t help but want to cheer you on, after seeing you like that. I know it’s strange to say, but I think it’s charming.” 

Iori simply stared blankly at her, unsure of how exactly to respond. Seeing how conflicted Iori was, Tsumugi knew that she just had to push a little farther for the omega to really consider her suggestion. “It’s just like Riku-san.” 

Iori heaved a sigh, meeting Tsumugi’s hopeful gaze and wondering what he should say in response. He couldn’t deny that she had a valid point, but that didn’t necessarily mean that he wanted to acknowledge it. Removing Riku as the centre, even if only temporarily, was bad enough. If it was Iori of all people who would be replacing him... just how would Nanase-san feel? 

“...let’s set this inane subject matter aside. Indeed, if I were to become the centre as per your suggestion, I might be the best candidate,” Iori allowed. “The other members are too unique, so when the centre is switched back to Nanase-san, backlash would undoubtedly occur. If I were centre, IDOLiSH7 would just become plain.” 

Tsumugi’s face lit up immediately. “Then...” 

“But that’s a completely separate issue,” he added, cutting the beta off before she could finish her sentence. “I have no intent to change the centre. Nanase-san will definitely sing for us. Nanase-san himself wants to sing. With his voice and his character, IDOLiSH7 can reach Re:vale, if not Zero. That is what I believe.” 

“Iori-san...” Tsumugi mumbled. 

“Is that all?” Iori asked, pointedly ignoring the disappointment in her voice. Tsumugi nodded, and Iori managed a small smile. “I’ll go and get Nanase-san, then. We’ll meet you in the living area in a bit.” 

The omega walked out of the room, leaving Tsumugi to stare after him with a resigned look on her face. 

 

--- 

 

“Am I being too selfish?” Iori sighed, shaking his thoughts off as he strode back to Riku’s room. He didn’t want to brood too much over the issue; Riku would know immediately that something was bothering Iori, and the last thing the omega wanted was for his boyfriend to wheedle an answer out of him. 

Evidently, though, he didn’t do too good a job at it, because Riku poked his head out of his room as Iori neared it. Concern, along with curiosity, was written on the alpha’s features. “Iori, is something wrong?” 

Iori was quick to shake his head in reply. “Nothing at all. Don’t worry about me. Did you get ready?” 

Riku pouted, lips jutting out in blatant disapproval. “I don’t know what you’re hiding, but I’ll find out. And yeah, I changed already. I just need to grab my inhaler and some water and I’m good to go.” 

“Have fun trying to find out, then,” Iori shrugged, walking past Riku’s room to enter his own. “I told Manager to wait in the living area. You can join her first if you want. Just give me a minute or two to change and get ready.” 

“Okay.” Riku went back into his room, presumably to finish packing his bag, and Iori went into his room as well. He tried not to dwell on Tsumugi’s suggestion as he got ready, finding a suitable outfit for the broadcast and changing into it. 

Iori stepped out of his room at the exact same time that Riku did, and he briefly wondered if Riku had been waiting for him all this while. The omega couldn’t quite find it in him to look Riku in the eye without Tsumugi and Yamato’s words weighing on his mind. They were both thinking of Riku’s best interests, and Iori knew that. While he did agree with them to a certain extent, he wasn’t quite willing to take over as IDOLiSH7’s centre. 

As long as Riku wanted to sing, and as long as Iori deemed that he was able to, then they would continue with the status quo. Unless it was absolutely necessary, Iori didn’t want to do something so drastic. 

Riku shot a worried glance at Iori as they walked to the living area together, but he didn’t ask any questions, because Iori wouldn’t give him an answer anyway. So, he simply opted to remain silent. I’ll just ask him tonight, then, Riku decided, after our schedule is over. 

Tsumugi glanced up from her phone when she heard the door to the living area open. Her gaze rested on Iori for a few seconds, and the omega was careful to keep his expression neutral. He didn’t want to seem as if he was wavering from his decision; he had more faith in Riku than that. “Ready to go?” she asked. 

“Yup!” Riku replied brightly, and if Iori couldn’t tell from his scent that he was still evidently concerned about his boyfriend, he would’ve thought that Riku was genuinely in a cheerful mood. 

“The others will be making their way to the studio separately, so we can go there straight,” Tsumugi informed the couple as they climbed into the vehicle. They hummed in response, and Riku shut the door before taking his seat beside Iori. 

The ride to the studio was oddly silent. Iori was caught up in his own thoughts, and Riku busy trying to figure out what exactly was on his boyfriend’s mind. He could just ask Iori outright – at some point, Iori would get annoyed and hopefully drop a hint or two. But they had a schedule with TRIGGER, and the last thing Riku wanted was for them to get into an argument right before it. 

As it was, Riku was plenty nervous about guesting with TRIGGER. He wondered if Tenn knew about his pathetic display at their concert last night, about how he hadn’t even managed to do the encore. While it was highly unlikely that Tenn had personally been at the concert, it wouldn’t at all be strange if word had spread. 

Tsumugi glanced at the couple through the mirror multiple times throughout the drive, unsure of whether she should try to start a conversation. The beta had no doubt that she’d, in one way or another, contributed to the somewhat tense atmosphere between the two. She could only hope that it wouldn’t affect them too much. 

When they finally made it to the changing room, the other members were already gathered there, and Mitsuki looked over from his seat as the trio entered the room. “Riku, are you feeling okay?” 

“I’m okay!” Riku assured, setting his bag down and beginning to change into his stage outfit. 

“Did you manage to sleep well?” Nagi chimed in. 

“I’m fine! I’ve had this since I was a kid, so I’m used to it. But more importantly, thank you. I heard you cleaned up the dorm with Tamaki!” 

Nagi nodded furiously, evidently rather proud of himself. “Yes! We worked together for your sake, and made the dorm all streaky clean!" he announced proudly. From behind him, Mitsuki snorted. 

“It’s squeaky clean,” Tamaki corrected. 

“We made it squeaky clean!” 

Riku let out a chuckle of his own. “Thank you!” the redhead exclaimed gratefully, glancing at Iori who was pulling his jacket on. The omega’s scent wasn’t angry, but whatever had been bothering him ever since he spoke with Tsumugi was clearly still bothering him now. Riku wondered if Iori would give him a more proper answer, with the other members around. “Iori, are you mad at me?” he tried. 

“Why would I be mad?” Iori asked in reply, not even bothering to turn to look at his boyfriend. 

“Because I couldn’t sing until the end,” Riku said, realising that he hadn’t actually brought this topic up to Iori in person. Iori had told Sougo to tell Riku that he wasn’t mad about it, and Riku didn’t particularly think Iori had been lying. Still, he couldn’t think of any plausible reason for how troubled the omega currently was. “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” 

Iori sighed, doing up the buttons on his jacket before turning to face Riku. “I’m not mad at all. If anything, I’m glad that nothing too serious happened.” His tone was matter-of-factly. It was easy to see that Iori wasn’t lying, and while Riku was glad that his boyfriend hadn’t been upset, he was also mildly frustrated that Iori wasn’t giving him even a slightest clue regarding what he was brooding over. 

“Nothing happened at all, really! Our TV show’s about to start and the reopening concert is waiting for us! I’ll make sure to pull everyone along and become a superstar!” When Iori simply stared at Riku blankly, seeming dumbfounded by his declaration, Riku chuckled. “Just kidding!” 

Iori broke into a small smile of his own. “I look forward to seeing it. I hope this isn’t just lip service.” 

“Now you’ve said it! I won’t disappoint you, Iori!” 

Mitsuki looked between the duo in blatant confusion. “Superstar? What are you guys talking about?” 

“It’s a secret!” the couple replied in unison, making eye contact with each other and bursting into a laughing fit. It took them over a minute to settle down, and even then, their eyes were filled with mirth. 

Yamato wore an amused smile as he said, “Well, everything seems to be alright.” He’d been rather concerned that his words to Iori earlier that morning would’ve affected their moods, but that didn’t appear to the case. At least, not to him it didn’t. 

“We’ll be appearing with TRIGGER today. It’s been a while since we last did so. The last time was Black or White, I believe?” Sougo mused aloud. It'd been a little over three months since then, though they did occasionally see TRIGGER along the corridors at various recordings. 

Sougo's words were enough to wipe the smile off Riku’s face entirely. “Yeah...” 

Tenn-nii ...  

Chapter Text

Tsumugi stopped abruptly in the middle of the corridor, bowing politely to the group in front of her. 

Tamaki peeked around Nagi, trying to get a glimpse of who it was. “Ah, it’s TRIGGER.” 

“And they’ve got such an amazing aura about them, as usual,” Mitsuki said quietly. 

TRIGGER’s manager clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Good afternoon. Can you refrain from walking all spread out?” she scolded, brows creased in a frown and hands on her hips. 

Nagi’s eyes widened, and he quickly moved out of the way. “Oh! Sorry!” 

“Good afternoon!” Tsumugi greeted. “I look forward to working with you today!” 

“It’s been a while, Tsumugi.” 

“It sure has, Gaku-san! Have you been well?” 

Gaku shrugged easily. “I guess so,” the alpha replied. His gaze lingered on Tsumugi for a few moments, head tilting to the side curiously. “Did you change up your hair?” 

“Ah... You noticed?” Tsumugi asked, smiling sweetly at TRIGGER’s leader. “I did, though just a little.” 

“It suits you,” Gaku praised, eyes flickering quickly to the figure of a certain Kujo Tenn, half-hidden behind him. “It’s sexy.” 

Gaku heard a soft “Tch” from Tenn, and he could barely suppress a satisfied smirk from showing on his face. It was always amusing, how easily he could tick Tenn off with just a few words. If Tenn didn’t react so often to his provocations, maybe Gaku would eventually stop. But, as usual, Tenn couldn't help but respond to Gaku’s words. 

Tsumugi chuckled, feeling her cheeks warm. “Not at all! No one said anything, so I thought maybe it didn’t work... Should I have done more to it?” 

Shaking his head, Gaku said, “It’s cute.” 

From behind him, Tenn clicked his tongue again. 

“Really...?” 

Mitsuki leaned closer to the other members. “And here, the #1 Most Desired Man is showing the true extent of his ability...” the beta hissed. It wasn’t the first time that Gaku was seemingly flirting with their manager, and while Tsumugi was extremely pretty, Mitsuki couldn’t say he understood why. Surely, one of Gaku’s status would be able to find someone who was more receptive of his advances. From what Mitsuki had seen, Tsumugi hadn’t accepted any of Gaku’s advances – if they even were advances. 

“S-she changed her hairstyle...?” Riku whispered, looking at the others with wide eyes. He'd spent the entire drive to the studio wondering what was weighing on Iori’s mind, and he hadn’t noticed at all that Tsumugi had done something different with her hair. 

Iori met Riku’s gaze, returning his unspoken question with a confused shrug. He'd spoken to Tsumugi privately for close to a half hour, but he hadn’t noticed, either. He'd been too focused on Tsumugi’s suggestion to remove Riku as the centre that he couldn’t think of much else. 

“W-we were so busy we didn’t notice at all,” Sougo said, sounding horrified at himself. 

Yamato shook his head morosely. “Now, at this rate we’re just a bunch of good-for-nothings. Our Manager tried to do something different, and we didn’t even notice,” he sighed, going over to Nagi and giving him a solid push on the back. “Alright. Nagi, go forth!” 

Oh...! Don’t shove me!” Nagi grumbled, stumbling towards Tsumugi. 

“Ah, Nagi-san-” 

He crashed into Tsumugi, and she very nearly fell over, if not for Ryuu stepping in front of the beta and catching Tsumugi before she could fall. The other alpha seemed genuinely concerned, giving Tsumugi a once over to see if she’d been injured. “Woah there. Are you okay?” 

“T-Tsunashi-san...” Tsumugi stuttered, pushing herself upright and out of Ryuu’s hold, “I’m fine! Thank you very much.” 

“Here it is!” Mitsuki narrated, eyeing Ryuu and Tsumugi as discreetly as he could. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the state of his boyfriend, although Nagi was visibly sulking by the side. If they weren’t in front of TRIGGER at the moment, Nagi would already be clamouring for Mitsuki’s attention. “With some lucky but lewd timing, the super-sexy beast is going to...!” 

“What are all of these dubious words you’re using...” Iori said dryly. 

Mitsuki offered his brother a sheepish smile. “I got them from magazine headlines.” 

“Nagi’s going to get jealous, Mitsu,” Yamato teased, seemingly uncaring of TRIGGER’s presence. 

Tsumugi and Ryuu’s exchange went mostly unnoticed by the other members, each of them engrossed in their own conversations. It wasn’t until Tenn spoke that Riku’s head snapped up, eyes immediately darting towards his older twin. “Good morning,” the alpha greeted, eyes fixed on the redhead. 

“Tenn-nii...” Riku said, feeling a smile slowly make its way onto his face. He hadn’t quite expected Tenn to address him so directly; apart from that time after Black or White, Tenn had always tried not to speak to Riku, especially not when they were in public. The incident at Zero Arena had been an exception, because neither twin had been expecting to see each other there. 

“Good morning!” Riku returned the greeting as cheerfully as he could, hoping that it masked any hints of his current health condition. He had no doubt that Tenn could guess how his health was faring, even with him hiding it, but he still had to try. “Hey, do you have time? If you do, then do you mind telling me your contact info? I want to call you sometime.” 

Tenn stared blankly at Riku for an extended amount of time, and Riku’s smile slowly turned into a grimace. Behind him, Iori fought back a scowl. If Tenn made a snide remark to Riku, then so help him, Iori might just start an argument with his boyfriend’s brother. Iori made it a point to be polite, but he was irritated enough as it was, with so much weighing on his mind and only an hour of sleep keeping him going. “...Is that a no?” 

“Alright,” Tenn replied in the end, and Riku beamed. 

“Really!?” 

“But first,” he continued, “answer this: What are your thoughts on your failure at yesterday’s live?” 

Riku deflated just as quickly as he’d perked up. “Failure...” 

“Of course it was a failure,” Tenn stated blankly. “You didn’t perform for the encore, giving the fans an incomplete performance. You failed to do your work as a professional. Am I wrong?” 

When Riku could only stare at the floor, neither able to meet Tenn’s gaze nor come up with a reply, Iori took a step forward to speak up. He was held back by Yamato, the beta frowning at him and shaking his head disapprovingly. “Don’t,” Yamato mouthed, and Iori clenched his fist in frustration. 

“Tenn, that’s enough,” Ryuu sighed. “I’m sure something happened. After all, injuries and lives come hand-in-hand. It's not right to judge Riku-kun so harshly.” 

Gaku nodded firmly in agreement. “Exactly. Just shut up and give him your number, at the very least. He is your younger brother, isn’t he?” 

“Quiet, you outsiders,” Tenn snapped. 

Iori wrenched his arm out of Yamato’s grip, refusing to watch Tenn put Riku down any longer. It was one thing for Tenn to have his own idealisms regarding professionalism, and another thing entirely to project those idealisms onto Riku. Tenn knew fully well what Riku’s condition was like during this time of the year, so for the white-haired male to call Riku’s absence during last night’s live a failure absolutely infuriated Iori. 

Tenn hadn’t seen how desperately Riku fought to be able to go on stage for the encore. He hadn’t seen how guilty Riku had been for failing to carry out his role as the group’s centre, even though his attack hadn’t yet been calmed down. Iori had no idea what Kujo Tenn’s problem with Riku was, but he was pissed off. “If anything, you’re the outsider,” Iori hissed, not even attempting to conceal the contempt in his voice. 

The omega relished in the way Tenn seemed to have been shocked by his statement. To some extent, it helped lift his sour mood slightly. Turning around and grabbing Riku’s wrist, Iori said, “Let’s go, Nanase-san. Don't let it bother you.” 

“But-” 

“Just go.” 

 

--- 

 

“What was that?” Yamato questioned, eyeing Iori incredulously. Of all the people he knew, Iori was the one Yamato had least expected to snap like that. He most certainly hadn’t expected Iori to snap at Tenn, even if the beta did have a sneaking suspicion that Iori didn’t like Tenn very much. 

And Iori did have a valid basis to dislike Tenn. It'd likely started from when they’d been in Okinawa several months ago, and Tenn had given them an hour-long lecture regarding professionalism. The fact that Riku was still hung up over the reason why Tenn had left probably didn’t help Iori’s impression of TRIGGER’s centre very much. 

Seeing Tenn talk down to Riku had more likely than not been the last straw for Iori. Yamato didn’t think Iori’s anger was unjustified in the least. Still, that didn’t mean that Iori should have vented his frustrations on Tenn. Regardless of whatever Tenn had said, he was still older than Iori, still the centre of their rival group, and still an alpha. 

It was only thanks to the professionalism that Tenn often spoke of that he hadn’t taken any action against Iori. Just thinking about what could’ve happened, had Tenn lost his cool and asserted his status as an alpha, was enough to unnerve even Yamato. It was one thing if Iori reacted badly to Tenn using his alpha voice – at the very least, the members of TRIGGER didn’t seem like they would spread the word about Iori being an omega. 

What concerned Yamato was that, if Riku saw Iori in distress, he would become defensive. It didn't matter that Tenn was his brother, because Iori was his fated omega. Even if they weren’t mated yet, the bond between the couple was strong enough that Riku would, without a doubt, go to the omega’s defence, protect him from the threat posed by another alpha. 

If that happened, nobody could fault Riku. It would be an instinctual reaction, an alpha protecting his partner, but it would also be a dead giveaway to everyone else. They could make as many excuses as they wanted; it would still be glaringly obvious that the relationship between Riku and Iori wasn’t just that of two members of IDOLiSH7. 

Iori glanced at Yamato from his position by the wall, where they were waiting for the staff to finish setting up the stage. TRIGGER was standing at the opposite corner of the studio, relatively far away from them and out of earshot. “What?” 

Yamato gave the omega a deadpan stare. “You know what.” 

Resisting the overwhelming urge to sigh, Iori’s gaze darted to Riku for a fraction of a second. TRIGGER may have been out of earshot, but Riku certainly wasn’t. “He was getting on my nerves,” Iori shrugged, a half-lie. While it was true that Tenn’s words had irritated him to no end, Iori knew that he normally wouldn’t have reacted so violently. 

But he’d been troubled enough already, and worrying about Riku’s reaction to Tenn’s words wasn’t something that Iori particularly wanted to deal with. Yamato had told him to think more about Riku’s feelings, and the omega had done just that. Riku definitely didn’t need to be nagged at by the brother who walked out on him. 

“Ichi, I know you’re a level-headed guy,” Yamato said, “which is exactly why I expect you to keep your cool. Don't let Kujo’s words get to you. I'm sure Riku’s trying to ignore it as well. Right, Riku?” 

Riku’s head snapped towards them, and the alpha managed a small smile. “I’m trying,” he agreed. “I can’t say it’s working out very well, though. It is true that I didn’t perform the encore last night.” 

“Rikkun did his best yesterday. The live wasn’t a failure at all. You tried your best, didn’t you?” 

“Tamaki’s right, Riku,” Mitsuki chimed in, flashing an encouraging smile. “Don’t beat yourself up over something that’s already happened.” 

“IDOLiSH7, we’re ready for you!” the setup crew called out suddenly. 

The members of IDOLiSH7 nodded, and they quickly got into their starting positions. They were only doing a quick rehearsal before the actual filming, but Tenn kept a strict eye on Riku anyway. It made the redhead extremely conscious of himself, as if he would screw up again

“Now, let’s get the rehearsal started!” 

Tenn-nii got mad at me... Even though he smiled at me at Black or White... Riku chanced a glance at Tenn, and immediately wished that he hadn’t. The expression that Tenn wore wasn’t one that Riku recognised. I’ve never seen him make such a scary face before... It’s all because I didn’t perform at the encore. I have to sing, I have to properly sing. Until the very end, I have to... I have to... I have to... 

Riku felt the familiar tightening in his chest, and he cursed the terrible timing of his attack. He absolutely did not want to have an attack now. But a cough made its way past his lips, and Riku found himself wheezing for breath. “Ha... hah-” 

“Riku-kun, you don’t seem too well,” the director asked, visibly concerned. “Are you okay? It’s just a camera rehearsal, so it’s fine if you rest for a bit. I’ll have the AD stand in for you.” 

“No!” Riku protested, far too quickly and forcefully. “I’m fine.” 

“Riku, sit out,” Yamato instructed. “The real thing is afterwards.” 

“I’m fine,” Riku insisted adamantly, before his body was wracked with a coughing fit. 

 

--- 

 

From where he was standing, Gaku stared curiously at Riku. “What’s up with him? He looks worn out.” 

“Maybe he was sick,” Ryuu guessed, “not injured. Poor kid. It had to happen right before their TV show was due to start, too. They're all so busy...” 

Tenn pursed his lips, keeping his expression as neutral as he was able to. He couldn’t deny that he was worried about Riku, regardless of whatever pretence he tried to keep up. Even though it’d been years since he’d left the Nanase household, Tenn could remember every little detail about Riku’s condition. Of course, he wouldn’t know about the things that had changed over the past couple of years, but he didn’t think that Riku’s health would have improved very much. 

The moment Kujo had returned home last night and asked Tenn about Riku’s absence during the encore, Tenn had known that Riku had had an attack. It hadn’t been all that unexpected, considering that winter was barely over, and that IDOLiSH7 had been incredibly busy since their win at Black or White. 

Tenn had masked his concern for Riku, and he’d hoped that Kujo hadn’t noticed anything strange about his behaviour. If he had, he hadn’t mentioned anything about it, and for that Tenn was glad. 

Now, though, seeing Riku work himself up into an attack because he felt like he needed to do well, Tenn was much less able to suppress his concern. He could keep his expression blank all he wanted, but there was no denying the change in his scent, slight as it was. 

As a general rule, the members of TRIGGER didn’t use scent neutralisers often. There was simply no need to, since it was well known that they were alphas, and they were all generally capable of keeping their scents in check. If they were angry, for one reason or another, then they made sure not to let the emotion seep into their scent, at least until they were in the privacy of their waiting room. 

Seeing Riku struggle for breath, for the first time in many years, was bringing up old instincts that Tenn had long ago forgotten about. They weren’t the instincts of an alpha, but that of an older brother. Tenn had never liked to see Riku suffer, and he’d always done everything in his power to alleviate as much of Riku’s pain as he could. 

He sensed Gaku’s gaze on him, and Tenn wondered if Gaku could smell the minute change in his scent. The leader always had been rather good at picking up on Tenn’s mood, although Tenn had never quite figured out how. He thought that he was rather good at masking his emotions from his scent, but somehow, Gaku was almost always able to see right through him. 

Riku’s increasingly severe coughing snapped Tenn out of his thoughts, and he glanced over to see Riku hunched over in pain. With a soft sigh, Tenn pushed himself off the wall, striding towards the stage where IDOLiSH7 was supposed to be rehearsing. 

“Oi, where are you going?” Gaku demanded, though Tenn paid him no heed. “Tenn!” 

“Riku-kun...” he heard Sougo say, “it’s best if you let someone fill in for you.” 

Riku shook his head, and Tenn briefly wondered if Riku had ever been quite this stubborn when they were young. “I can do it!” 

“I’ll sub for him,” Tenn cut in, and immediately all eyes were on him. 

“...huh?” Riku asked, as if he hadn’t heard Tenn properly the first time. He looked surprised, relieved, and hurt, all at the same time. Tenn wasn’t entirely sure what had come over him; it wasn’t like him at all to barge into the affairs of another group. Sure, Riku was his brother, but it was him who’d walked out on their family. It was exactly as Iori had said. The outsider was Tenn. 

And yet, Tenn couldn’t stand to see Riku perform in his current condition. He wasn’t cold-hearted enough to watch his younger twin suffer from an attack and still allow him to perform, even if it was just a simple rehearsal. There was also the ever-present issue of professionalism, because he highly doubted that Riku would be able to perform at an acceptable standard in his current state. 

The other members of IDOLiSH7 looked equally shocked, and Tenn was sure that Gaku and Ryuu were no exception. If Tenn turned to look at the expression on Gaku’s face, he knew that he definitely wouldn't be able to hold in a snicker. After all, it wasn’t very often that he got to see anything other than a scowl on his leader’s face. 

“Kujo’s going to!?” 

“You’re holding up the rehearsal. Did you perhaps think this was your own studio?” Tenn questioned, as coldly as he could. He didn’t want to give the impression that he was worried about Riku. It wasn’t fair for him to raise Riku’s hopes, because he had no intention of returning to the Nanase family. 

“Tenn-nii...” 

“Move.” 

“T-then, we’ll have Riku-kun sit out,” the director said. “Kujo-san, are you sure it’s okay?” 

Tenn nodded easily, confident that he would be able to pull it off with ease. “It’s fine.” 

Iori walked up to Tenn, and if Tenn didn’t know any better, he’d have thought that Iori was sizing him up. A beta sizing an alpha up? Tenn thought humourlessly. There was always the possibility that Iori was an alpha using scent neutralisers, but Tenn had never entertained that thought for very long. Iori didn’t seem at all like an alpha. 

He certainly never thought of the possibility of Iori being an omega. 

“Are you sure you’ll be able to dance?" Iori asked, his tone challenging. 

So,  he doesn’t think I can do it? 

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tenn scoffed, glancing at the director. “Please start.” 

 

--- 

 

Iori hated to admit it, but Tenn was good

Sure, they’d watched TRIGGER perform before, both from the audience and from backstage. Tenn had always given a solid performance, and even if Iori didn’t like Tenn very much, he at least acknowledged that fact. 

But performing on the same stage, beside Tenn, was another matter entirely. There was a pressure that Tenn exuded just by being on the same stage, and that very pressure made everyone on stage with him perform that much better. If they didn’t, they would be left in the dust entirely, completely overshadowed by the blinding light that was Kujo Tenn. 

It certainly wasn’t easy to perform on the same standard as Tenn, but it was the only way to make sure that the alpha didn’t steal the spotlight from them. It was their song, and yet all eyes in the studio were fixed on Tenn’s dancing figure – Riku's included. 

Every single time Iori turned to glance at Riku, worried that his boyfriend would be too hard on himself, he found the alpha’s gaze following Tenn’s graceful yet powerful movements. The expression on Riku’s face could only be described as awestruck, as if he was watching Tenn perform for the first time. It was one of the few times he was able to watch Tenn from up-close. 

And it definitely was the first time he was watching Tenn perform in his place. 

Iori wasn’t oblivious enough not to notice the gradual change in Riku’s scent. At first, he’d been mildly relieved at being able to sit out, even if he’d been the one who’d been insisting on performing. Then he’d been amazed, awed, completely captivated by Tenn. But around the halfway point of the song, his scent began to become panicked and despaired. 

The omega could understand, to some extent, why Riku felt that way. He'd finally managed to find a place where he belonged, a place that needed him, only to see that he could easily be replaced by Tenn. Tenn, whom he had been trying so hard to catch up to since young. Logically, Iori knew that Tenn meant no harm; or, at least, he hoped so. But Tenn thought only about Riku’s physical health – he didn’t seem to ever have thought of his mental state. 

And by the end of the song, Riku was left staring blankly at where Tenn stood, at the place that was rightfully his. 

“Thank you very much. How was it?” Tenn asked, grabbing a bottle and towel from Anesagi. 

“Perfect!” the director exclaimed delightfully. “You really saved us there! Thank you so much!” 

“Ah... Thank you very much. Sorry for all the trouble, Kujo-san,” Tsumugi apologised. 

Tenn paid her no heed, instead turning to look at Riku. There was no hint of sympathy in his eyes, and Iori was left to wonder how Tenn could bear to be so cold to Riku. He was able to take Riku’s place in the rehearsal for him, but somehow, he couldn’t even offer words of comfort for the redhead. 

“Rehearsals aren’t just practice – they’re for getting the studio pumped up about the actual performance as well. This is all part of our work. Both the staff members and fans will respond to our sincerity. Using your poor physical condition as an excuse is just irresponsible.” 

Riku could only bite on his lower lip, unsure of how to respond. Tenn wasn’t wrong, not at all, and knowing that only made Riku more frustrated with himself. And Tenn kept looking at Riku with that same expectant gaze, waiting for Riku to give him any sort of answer. 

This lasted for all of ten seconds before Iori decided that enough was enough. If nobody was going to speak up for Riku and defend him, then he’d do it himself. Riku was his to protect, after all. “That is indeed a logical argument. However, allow me to ask you something,” Iori spoke up, moving so that he was standing in between the two alphas. “Do you do this to other groups as well?” 

“...what.” 

“You don’t, am I correct? It’s only because we’re IDOLiSH7, and because your poor younger brother is here that you’re doing all of this.” 

“I-Iori-san...” 

“All of this is just excessive meddling,” Iori continued, completely ignoring Tsumugi. “It’s because of this very behaviour that you’ve raised him to be someone who’s spoiled and can’t do anything by himself!” 

The moments the words left Iori’s mouth, the omega was filled with regret. He didn’t mean to say anything bad about Riku. All he’d wanted to do was put his point across: Tenn had to leave Riku to his own devices sometimes, otherwise he’d never be independent. He certainly hadn’t meant to imply that Riku was useless, but Iori never was good at phrasing things in a way that they wouldn’t hurt others. 

Tenn remained silent for a few moments before finally asking, “...what?” 

Before Iori could say anything else and potentially crush what little confidence Riku had left, Yamato and Ryuu came between him and Tenn. “Now, now, now!” 

“Don’t do that, Ichi! He helped us out! I am so sorry!” Yamato apologised quickly, shooting Iori a look that told him to drop the matter. 

“It’s just as Iori-kun said, Tenn. You’re butting into other agencies’ affairs a little too much! Please forgive us!” Ryuu was quick to reply, subtly pushing Tenn away from Iori and back to where Gaku and Anesagi were standing. 

“No, no, not at all! You guys have always taken good care of us. Let’s go out sometime!” 

“Ah, I’d love to! Let’s grab a drink together when we have time! Come on, Tenn! Come here!” 

Tenn couldn’t stop himself from being pushed back by Ryuu, with how much bigger Ryuu was. Shooting one last look at Iori, Tenn barely managed to prevent himself from arguing back. “Tch.” 

“Huh? What did you just do? Did you just click your tongue at me? I heard you. Hey, come back!” 

“Just drop it, and get over here!” Yamato snapped. The shock of Yamato raising his voice was enough to make Iori turn around. It wasn’t often that Yamato lost his patience like that. 

“W-what about Nanase-san?” Iori asked in a whisper. He knew fairly well that he’d royally screwed up by saying what he’d said, and Riku’s scent told him that the alpha had all but plummeted into a sort of depression. Tenn may have been a big part of why Riku was like this, but Iori knew he had responsibility to bear, too. 

Yamato jerked his finger to the huddled figure of the alpha. “He’s sitting in the corner of the studio with his knees to his chest,” Yamato said dryly. “He seems super depressed.” 

Iori whipped back to shoot a glare at Tenn. “See? Look at what you’ve done! You made him lose his motivation! Just what part of this is sincere!?” 

“I told you to drop it already!” Yamato scolded. “What am I supposed to do with the both of you...” 

“L-let’s just take it easy for now, okay?” Tsumugi suggested. “Mitsuki-san, would you mind coming with me to get some drinks for everyone?” 

Chapter Text

“What were you doing, Tenn?” Gaku demanded once they were back in their waiting room. The rest of the recording had gone without much of an issue, although it’d been obvious to everyone that Riku was feeling rather down. They didn’t need to be able to smell his scent to know that. “More importantly, when’d you learn IDOLiSH7’s choreography?” 

Gaku couldn’t claim to know everything that Tenn did, considering they all lived apart from each other, but what he did know was that Tenn had been incredibly busy. Of course, the three of them had all been busy, had always been busy, but work had piled up more for Tenn ever since their loss at Black or White. 

It was already March now, and while their workload had lightened slightly, Gaku had thought that Tenn would use the extra time to get more rest. He didn’t expect Tenn to go and learn the choreography for another group, and definitely not that of their rival group. 

But Tenn had always been unpredictable at times, even if Gaku thought he had a pretty good grasp of what the younger was like by now. He’d spent the past two years trying to figure Tenn out, and still there were things he completely didn’t know about. 

Tenn shrugged, hanging his coat neatly on the rack. “I can remember things after watching them once.” 

“That’s impressive,” Gaku said without thinking, before he caught himself and added, “Wait, no, hold up. You didn’t have to harass your younger brother like that... Ow, ow, ow! You’re stepping on my foot!” 

“Sorry.” Tenn’s tone was anything but apologetic. In fact, it was clear as day that he didn't like to be nagged at by Gaku. Gaku was dense, but his nose worked perfectly fine, and Tenn wasn’t putting any effort at all into masking his scent. “I didn’t notice.” 

“Hurry up and move it away!” Gaku grumbled, forcefully pulling his foot out from under Tenn’s. 

“He wasn’t harassing him,” Ryuu cut in, ever the peacemaker. He was used to the duo arguing by now, it was an everyday occurrence at this point, but he still didn’t like it. In fact, Ryuu couldn’t remember if there ever was a time when Gaku and Tenn didn’t argue with each other, and for the life of him he couldn’t understand why. It seemed obvious, to him at least, that they cared about each other. “Tenn was just worried about Riku-kun... ouch, ouch! That’s my foot!” 

“Sorry. I didn’t see.” 

“But you’re closer to the ground...? Ow, ow, ow! Sorry!” 

Gaku rolled his eyes, deciding that it would be best to drop the matter for the time being. Knowing how Tenn was, Gaku wouldn’t be getting an answer that was remotely satisfactory right now. Sometimes Gaku wondered why it was so difficult for Tenn to open up a little more, share more about his life with him and Ryuu. 

But Tenn always did like to keep his secrets, and it wasn’t as if Gaku didn’t have his own secrets that he didn’t tell anyone. One, for example, was his apparent interest in the pink-haired male standing across him. He was still undecided on whether said interest was romantic or not, but he’d found himself looking in the younger’s direction more frequently since IDOLiSH7 was formed. Tenn’d always seemed awfully invested in Riku, and Gaku had found himself wondering why their centre was paying attention to the centre of a rookie group. 

The reason for that had become clear once Riku had accidentally gone to Gaku’s hotel room in Okinawa, though it wasn’t as if Gaku’s curiosity had died down after that. He'd gradually found himself wondering why Tenn had left the family, why he’d chosen to follow Kujo Takamasa. It would take time, but Gaku was determined to find out. Just like any other alpha, he had a stubborn streak. 

Shaking his head, Gaku pushed the thoughts away. Now certainly wasn’t the time to think about what he felt towards their centre. With both Ryuu and Tenn having quietened down, Gaku decided that he should quickly change back into his own clothes. It was getting late, and he wanted to get home and rest. 

Gaku was painfully oblivious to the pair of pink eyes staring at his back while he stripped off his stage costume, Tenn’s gaze following the leader’s movements closely. Gaku didn’t have big muscles like Ryuu, but they were defined all the same, and Tenn had found that he appreciated them more than he did Ryuu’s muscles. 

Of course, Tenn would never admit it aloud, considering how often he butted heads with Gaku. It would be awfully awkward, not to mention embarrassing, if he ever did get found out. Besides, Tenn didn’t exactly want to act on these emotions, because he didn’t have the time to dabble in nonsensical feelings that would likely die out within a couple of years. He had bigger dreams than that, and Kujo expected much more of him. 

He looked away just in time, as Gaku turned around to retrieve his clothes on the rack behind Tenn. The elder’s gaze lingered on Tenn for longer than it usually would have, briefly wondering why he seemed to be seeing the faintest hint of a blush on Tenn’s face. “Oi, aren’t you going to change?” 

“Rude,” Tenn huffed, snatching his clothes off the rack and stalking away to the corner of the room. 

Ryuu raised a brow. “What did you do this time?” 

“Wha-” Gaku looked briefly scandalised by the false accusation. “Nothing!” 

“He doesn’t have to do anything,” Tenn replied without turning around, easily pulling his shirt over his head. Gaku had to tear his gaze away from Tenn’s considerably leaner body. He never did understand how it was that Tenn had a physique like that; he was all lean, undefined muscle, and Tenn couldn’t put on much weight even if he tried. “Just looking at his face makes me annoyed.” 

I take everything back, Gaku thought, honestly unable to figure out why he was remotely attracted to someone with a personality like Tenn’s. He’s just an ill-mannered brat. 

“Don’t get into another fight,” Ryuu sighed. “Anesagi-san’s going to be back from speaking with the director soon. Do you really want her to see you guys in the midst of another disagreement?” 

“I’m done changing already,” Tenn announced, completely ignoring what Ryuu said. He'd been rushing, but he wouldn’t bring that up. Being in the same space as Gaku, even with Ryuu around, made Tenn’s mind wander about the what-ifs. It was always off-putting to have such thoughts swimming in his mind – he didn’t intend to do anything anyway, because he quite liked the way things were now. 

Bickering with Gaku was enjoyable in its own right, and Tenn did like to find out what kind of reaction he could elicit from the other. He felt sorry for Ryuu sometimes, always caught in the middle, but there was no way around it. Doing something, anything, about his slight attraction to Gaku would only end up making things awkward for all of them. Kujo wasn’t likely to approve, either. 

Gaku glanced at Tenn, seeing that he was already changed out of his stage costume. “Someone’s in a rush,” he commented offhandedly, tugging his own shirt in place as well. “Do you not want to risk running into Nanase and making things awkward? Or worse, Izumi-otouto?” 

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Tenn snorted, somewhat relieved that Gaku was incredibly dense. “I could care less about running into them. Kujo-san and Aya are waiting for me with dinner.” 

“That’s nice!” 

“Lucky you.” 

The door opened right then, cutting their conversation short, and Anesagi stepped into the room. “Are you boys ready to go?” she asked. The trio nodded, picking up their bags, and the manager nodded in approval. “Good job today! Have a good rest when you get home tonight.” 

 

--- 

 

Riku sat on the couch with his knees pulled up to his chest, staring sullenly at the ground. “This is the worst,” he murmured, heaving a soft sigh. 

It'd been a good thirty minutes since they’d returned to the dorm, and after they’d put their belongings down in their rooms, the group had gathered back in the living area to discuss the day’s schedule. Or, at least, they’d planned to discuss it, but it’d been clear as day that Riku was in no mood to talk about his pathetic display. 

The others understood, of course. If they tried to put themselves in his shoes, they too would feel rather terrible about themselves. That was why, instead of forcing Riku to talk about the recording, Mitsuki and Sougo were doing their best to cheer the centre up. 

“Riku, it’s okay!” Mitsuki assured, smile bright as always. He held one of Nagi’s figures in front of Riku, a Kokona figure where she was pumping her fist in encouragement. “You did really well on the actual performance! See, look! Kokona-chan’s saying congrats!” 

“Oh... My figure...” 

Sougo nodded firmly in agreement, completely oblivious to Nagi’s weak protests. “Exactly! You were very cool, Riku-kun! Here, have some pudding! It’ll cheer you up!” 

“Hey, that’s mine...” Tamaki trailed off, shrinking back when Sougo shot him a quick glare. 

“But... But I...” Riku sighed again, sounding more frustrated than before this time. 

“Isn’t Kokona-chan cute?” 

“Isn’t King Pudding delicious?” 

“Why does it sound like they’re trying to soothe a kid...” Yamato deadpanned. 

Iori couldn’t help but want to agree; he knew Mitsuki and Sougo were just doing their best to help lift Riku’s spirits, but Iori knew his boyfriend well enough to know that there was nothing they could say now that would help. Riku had a tendency to beat himself up, to think that he’d disappointed them by not living up to past standards. It was just how it was. 

Besides, the methods that Mitsuki and Sougo were using at the moment were, honestly, completely ineffective when used on Riku. Riku wasn’t Nagi or Tamaki. There was no way that they could use the same methods that they used on their respective boyfriends to coax Riku. Iori had thought that that was obvious enough, at least. 

“I... all I do is cause trouble for everyone... all I do is get in everyone’s way..." 

The smile slipped off Sougo’s face as he said, “Riku-kun...” 

Iori stared at his boyfriend, at the way the alpha seemed to be curling into himself. Riku always had a significant presence about him, but now it seemed painfully small. Iori could tell that Riku was trying to make himself as unnoticeable as possible, as if he was hiding away in shame. And he could tell that Riku was ashamed of himself, because shame was reflected clearly in his scent. 

Iori had been headstrong about keeping Riku as the centre, but if Riku staying as the centre meant that he would have to constantly pressurise himself to perform as well as he had at Black or White, then Iori wasn’t so sure anymore. He wasn’t oblivious enough to not be able to see the role he’d played in creating the Riku he saw in front of him now, having pushed Riku so far that he’d very nearly broken. 

“...Manager, if you’ll come with me for a bit?” 

Tsumugi startled, not having expected Iori to suddenly speak up. She didn’t need to be able to smell Iori’s scent to know that he was worried about Riku. It only made sense that he was, because Riku wasn’t just IDOLiSH7’s centre. First and foremost, he was Iori’s boyfriend, his partner. His fated alpha. Iori would never intentionally do something to harm Riku. “Yes.” 

 

---- 

 

“Iori-san, what is it?” 

Iori pursed his lips, leaning against his bedframe as he thought of how to phrase his sentence. They'd gone to Iori’s room to talk, not wanting to be overheard by the other members. Yamato had noticed the two of them leave, had given them a knowing look, but thankfully hadn’t asked any questions. Iori was plenty troubled, as things were now. “I’ll admit it. You were right. I was wrong.” 

“Huh...?” 

“Regarding the change of centre for the new song,” Iori clarified, “I humbly accept your offer.” 

For a few seconds, Tsumugi was unable to reply, her mouth hanging open as she processed what Iori had just said. Just earlier that day, less than ten hours ago, Iori had steadfastly turned down her suggestion for a centre change. She supposed that seeing how Riku was blaming himself now had changed Iori’s mind, which was a good thing in and of itself, but it would’ve been much better if things hadn’t had to turn out this way. 

With a sigh, Iori nodded, answering the unspoken question that hung in the air: Are you sure? “If we leave things as is, Nanase-san will only continue to lose confidence. Kujo-san substituting in for him was the final blow,” he said. I didn’t help the situation much, saying something stupid like that. I'm sure I hurt Nanase-san a lot with my words, too. 

“Our show begins and gathers attention. With Nanase-san at the center. Everyone remembers IDOLiSH7 and Nanase-san’s names. That was my dream,” Iori continued, snorting softly to himself and shaking his head. It'd been terribly idealistic of him, to think that things could possibly go so smoothly. Even worse was the fact that Iori had contributed to Riku’s stress, and he hadn’t even considered how bad it was. 

When Tsumugi still didn’t reply, Iori shrugged, as if he wasn’t particularly affected by his decision. He probably didn’t need to voice it aloud for Tsumugi to know that he wasn’t particularly pleased, but Riku’s health mattered more than whatever grand plan Iori had had in mind. “Well, there’s no use in mulling over this. Things will only worsen if we keep forcing it. Let’s shift gears and move forward.” 

“Iori-san...” Tsumugi finally said, having found her voice again. Her tone was a mix of surprised and touched, and it made Iori wonder what exactly she thought of him. Sure, he’d been dead set against changing the centre, but even Iori wasn’t heartless enough to keep pushing Riku to perform. “Thank you so much. I understand, both Iori-san and Riku-san’s frustrations... because the two of you are always doing your best for IDOLiSH7. Even though Iori-san worked so hard to plan things out for IDOLiSH7...” 

“It’s fine,” Iori assured, even though it really wasn’t, even though Iori still wished that things didn’t have to come to this, “Manager... Thank you for noticing. If it weren’t for you, I would’ve crushed Nanase-san before I could’ve made him into a star. I’m glad you’re our manager.” 

“Iori-san...” 

“I forgot to mention this, but the organization and staging of our last live was wonderful. Your talent could be sensed through your work.” 

Tsumugi blinked, completely caught off guard by the sudden compliment. “Not at all. Don’t praise me so suddenly. It kind of feels out of place.” 

“I’m trying to spoil you. Do you not understand?” 

The beta couldn’t help but chuckle, looking at Iori with a slightly cheeky smile. It felt nice to be praised once in a while, even if all she’d done was to do her job properly. “Iori-san is kind of clumsy, huh.” 

“...are you making fun of me?” Iori asked dryly. 

“Not at all. I think you’re a very charming person, both when things go well and when things don’t go well. Your face when you’re calm and composed, when you’re ill-tempered, when you’re casting your eyes away in embarrassment, when you’re crying – they’re all charming. Iori-san is someone who captivates the hearts of others.” 

This time, it was Iori who was caught off guard, not at all knowing how he should respond to the beta’s words. It wasn’t often that he was praised so straightforwardly, perhaps with the exception of Riku, and Iori hadn’t ever thought of himself as a captivating person. 

“I’ll be entrusting the position of centre to you, Iori-san, during this important time period for IDOLiSH7. All of us will be supporting you, so please do your best.” 

“That goes without saying,” Iori said, pushing himself off the bedframe and walking to the door. “Then, I think it’s time we tell the group about your decision, Manager.” 

I hope  Nanase-san doesn’t take it too badly. 

 

--- 

 

Eyes wide, Riku turned to look at his boyfriend. “Iori’s going to be the centre, instead of me...?” 

Iori, for the life of him, couldn’t tell what exactly Riku was feeling at the moment. He hadn’t realised it was possible for somebody to feel so disappointed, yet so relieved, to hear a piece of news. This made it doubly hard for Iori to come up with a proper response; as if he hadn’t already been stressed enough over how Riku would react. 

In the end, he settled for a simple nod, keeping a grimace off his face. “Yes. You know how we’ve changed the centre according to the song before? It’s exactly like that. Don’t overthink it. I’m only substituting for you until your condition gets better.” 

Riku stared at the ground, completely avoiding the omega’s gaze. They were alone in Iori’s room at the moment, Tsumugi having gone out to relay the news to the rest of the group. If Iori had to be honest, he’d much rather switch places with Tsumugi. He didn’t want to be the one to witness Riku’s inner turmoil. “Won’t it be rough, since you have school too?” the alpha asked after a while, looking worriedly at Iori. 

Slightly taken aback, Iori resisted the urge to shoot his boyfriend an incredulous look. He couldn’t believe that, even now, Riku was worried about him. If anything, Riku ought to be worrying about himself. It was ridiculous, and Iori was touched, but he was also frustrated. 

Still, he didn’t voice his thoughts aloud, knowing that it wouldn’t do any good anyway. “It won’t be a problem,” he replied instead, hating that the atmosphere was so awkward. “My entrance exams are already over. You know that, Nanase-san.” 

“I guess,” Riku mumbled, sounding guilty all the same. “I’m sorry... for causing you trouble...” 

“It’s just division of labour. There’s seven of us, so we must cover each other's weaknesses,” Iori said easily. It wasn’t a lie, but it also wasn’t the complete truth. Iori had never seen Riku’s poor health as a weakness – if anything, it was a strength. Perhaps it was indeed inconvenient that Riku had attacks every now and then, especially in winter and spring, but Riku wouldn’t be who he was if he hadn’t gone through what he had. “Any questions?” 

Smiling softly, Riku shook his head and said, “Nope. Thank you. To be honest, I’m relieved. I’ve been uneasy every morning before going to work... about whether or not I can do things well, or see it to the end... That’s why, I’m really thankful.” 

When Iori didn’t reply, Riku let out a small chuckle. “I feel like I’ve got to thank you somehow, Iori.” 

“Are you giving me some cheap, less-than-1000-yen candy again?” Iori teased, attempting to lift Riku’s mood. He hated when things became awkward between him and Riku, even more so when it was because of something he couldn’t quite control. 

Riku pouted, as Iori had expected him to, and the corner of the omega’s lips twitched upwards. “I’ll splurge this time! I’ll buy you anything you want. I’ve got quite a bit of allowance money saved up, you know?” Riku retorted defensively, as if Iori had hurt his pride. 

Iori’s laughter was more genuine this time. “I look forward to it,” he said, before abruptly holding his arms out. Now that the tension was diffused, even if only by a little, Iori wanted to do what he could to cheer Riku up. 

The alpha understood immediately, not needing a verbal invitation to step into Iori’s waiting arms. He was truly glad for Iori’s existence, because Riku wasn’t sure how he would’ve made it so far without the omega by his side. And even now, the omega was taking his place as the centre until he was recovered enough to take back his rightful position. Izumi Iori was truly too good for him. “Thank you, Iori,” Riku repeated, knowing that he would say it again and again until he felt that it was enough. “Thank you.” 

“I got it the first time, Nanase-san,” Iori chuckled, hiding his face in the crook of Riku’s neck so that the alpha wouldn’t be able to see the tinge of pink on his cheeks. “I’ll lead IDOLiSH7 well so that when you’re ready to reclaim your place as centre, we’ll be ready to support you. You can count on me.” 

“I won’t let you down,” Riku promised, nuzzling Iori’s cheek affectionately. 

Iori hummed in acknowledgement, letting Riku scent him, enjoying the comfort it brought. After all, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to take over as the centre well, and he certainly wasn’t sure if the fans would be alright with it. 

But he had to do it. For IDOLiSH7’s sake, as well as for Riku’s. 

 

--- 

 

Tamaki glanced at his classmate as they walked back home from school, unable to read the blank look on Iori’s face as usual. “So... I heard you’re subbing for Rikkun, Iorin?” 

“Indeed.” 

“Huh,” Tamaki mused aloud, “sounds tiring.” 

With a suffering sigh, Iori shot the alpha a quick glare. Tamaki wasn’t wrong, but Iori had only just begun his temporary appointment as IDOLiSH7’s centre. Already the omega could feel the pressure that came with being the centre; he could only imagine how difficult it’d been for Riku. “Please stop. That person probably hasn’t noticed yet. And I don’t intend for him to.” 

Tamaki hummed, though Iori wasn’t sure if Tamaki understood where he was coming from. Tamaki and Sougo had extremely different dynamics as compared to Riku and Iori, both as a couple and as a duo. It wouldn’t be strange if Tamaki didn’t understand how Iori felt about the entire situation. “Does MEZZO ever have things like this?” 

“We... we’re super different, so,” Tamaki allowed. “Besides, isn’t comparing kind of inconvenient?” 

“I suppose,” Iori agreed, because it was true. That wasn’t to say that Riku and Iori were particularly similar in any way, but Tamaki and Sougo could be said to be polar opposites. The things they had in common with each other were few and far between, yet they were a fated couple regardless.  

Momo had once told them that couples would face a crisis once every three years. In Iori’s opinion, though, MEZZO faced a crisis at least once every three months, if not more. It was almost to be expected, with how different their personalities were, but it’d be much better if they could avoid such quarterly arguments. 

They walked in silence after that, the conversation having ended as abruptly as it’d began. The dorm wasn’t too far away at this point, barely a few minutes till they’d arrive, so the duo sped up, wanting to get out of the cold as quickly as possible. 

Tamaki had to leave for a schedule with Sougo immediately after getting back to the dorm, something which the alpha had been complaining all morning about. He and Sougo had been arguing about something again, because Sougo wasn’t all too pleased with Tamaki’s performances recently. It wasn’t that they were bad, per se. In fact, most people were quite impressed with Tamaki’s ability to adlib as and when he wanted to. 

Iori couldn’t quite empathise with the alpha, though. If he’d to choose a side, he’d likely stand with Sougo. He didn’t like when people didn’t follow the prearranged flow of things, either. 

As they neared the dorm, Tamaki’s brows furrowed. “Souchan’s waiting for me at the door.” 

“Is that so,” Iori said, not at all doubting Tamaki’s nose. 

True enough, Sougo came into sight barely a few seconds later, bag slung over his shoulder and ready to go. Tamaki clicked his tongue once Sougo was in earshot, giving his boyfriend the most unimpressed look he was able to muster. “What’re you doing outside, Souchan? It's still cold out,” Tamaki grumbled, in the gruff way that he always expressed his concern. “You get sick more easily than I do.” 

Sougo offered a sheepish smile in return, nodding at Iori in acknowledgment. “I thought you’d be tired from school, so I took the liberty to pack everything you’d need for you,” he explained, “so you only have to put your schoolbag down and change out of your uniform.” 

Tamaki narrowed his gaze at Sougo. “I’m still not happy with you nagging me about the adlibbing.” 

“I’m not trying to make up for that,” Sougo replied simply, “because I don’t think I was wrong. I was just trying to be considerate of you, since you still have to go to school for your upcoming graduation, but it seems like I was butting my nose into things unnecessarily again.” 

Iori stared blankly at the couple, watched Sougo storm back into the dorm and slam the door in their faces. Then, the omega turned to look at his classmate, resisting the urge to heave a huge sigh. “You know, Ousaka-san was just being nice.” 

“I know, dammit,” Tamaki groaned, going to look for Sougo and leaving Iori alone outside. 

 

--- 

 

“Listen, Tamaki-kun. I won’t tell you to stop putting in adlibs, but don’t stray too far away-” 

“You’re so noisy, ugh...” 

“-otherwise there’s no point in the two of us dancing.” 

The couple was at the studio, having just ran through a round of rehearsal for their performance, and Tamaki had added in adlibs of his own again. Sougo had to admit that Tamaki’s adlibs were pretty good, that they helped to enhance the overall performance. Still, that didn’t mean it was okay for Tamaki to put in adlibs every single time. 

Just like Iori, Sougo liked things to be done in the manner that they’d been intended to be done. Even if the hosts and their fellow guests liked Tamaki’s adlibs, even if the audience’s screams got louder whenever the alpha did them, Sougo would rather Tamaki tone things down a notch. 

He'd had this discussion with Tamaki over and over again, and still Tamaki refused to listen. In fact, the alpha had only increased the numbers of adlibs since their win at Black or White. It often made Sougo wonder if Tamaki had gotten ahead of himself, simply because they’d won the Male Idol Award. Tamaki always said that that wasn’t the case, but Sougo had his doubts. 

“There’s just a certain feeling during those times!” Tamaki retorted, visibly frustrated by Sougo’s inability to understand him. He knew that their personalities were vastly different, but they’d been getting along relatively well as of late. But, as usual, Souchan has to find something to nag me about. “What you’re saying right now is that I should just dance every step exactly? Like a robot? Or what?” 

Sougo sighed. He was sick and tired of arguing about the same thing with Tamaki every other day. If only the alpha was willing to listen to him, try to understand why it wasn’t good to always put in adlibs. 

“You’re just arbitrarily breaking the formation,” Sougo said, repeating his stance for the nth time, like a broken record, “and too much at that. You have to respect the person who choreographed all of this.” 

“All you do is nag! You're always telling me that I can’t do this or I can’t do that!” 

“It’s because you keep doing things irregularly! There are things that are set in place for everything!” 

“You’re so annoying!” Tamaki snapped. Eyes widening in surprise, Sougo felt his heart sink. He didn’t tend to let his emotions show on his face, but it always hurt whenever Tamaki told him that he was annoying, or that he was nagging too much. He wasn’t sure if the hurt was reflected in his scent, but if it was, Tamaki didn’t say anything about it. “Someone told me that if they’d wanted someone well-behaved, then they wouldn’t have called for me!” 

“Who!? Just who said something so irresponsible!? I’d like to have a word with them!” Sougo demanded. It took just a few moments for him to remember that it’d been Yuki who’d told Tamaki something like that. “Was it Yuk-” 

The omega cut himself off abruptly as he caught sight of a familiar figure, hurriedly moving so that he was sandwiched between Tamaki and the wall. Whatever anger and hurt he’d been feeling was forgotten, and Sougo tried to get his heart to stop racing in a mix of fear and anxiety. 

“W-what!?” Tamaki questioned, wondering what had come over his boyfriend. His nose twitched as he caught Sougo’s scent, alpha instincts demanding that he protect Sougo from whatever, or whoever, it was that was making him feel this way. “What’s wrong?” 

“Could you act as a wall for a bit?” 

“Wall? How? Do I spread my arms out? Or raise them? Should I jump?” 

“Don’t do anything that would make you stand out!” Sougo hissed, trying to make himself seem as small as possible. He peeked at the two men who’d just entered the studio, ears straining to hear what was being discussed. 

“Thank you very much for going through the trouble of coming here today.” 

“Not at all!” the other man assured with a warm smile. Sougo knew better – this man, was one of the higherups in FSC, and he most certainly was not a warm person. “It looks like it’ll be a show with great viewership. I have high expectations.” 

“Of course!” the station staff responded. “A music show with TRIGGER as the main emcees. It'll be a gorgeous line-up, since the guests will be from Yaotome Productions’ main force as well. FSC is also cooperating on all fronts. We definitely won’t lose to A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7, which is in the same time slot!” 

The two walked out of the studio, continuing their discussion in the corridors, and Tamaki shifted slightly so that he could look Sougo in the eye. “Isn’t FSC Souchan’s family?” he asked, as if he could ever have forgotten. “TRIGGER’s getting a new show with your family as the sponsors? And in the same time slot as our show?” 

Sougo remained silent, unable to formulate a reply. He should’ve seen something like this coming, since his father still didn’t quite approve of him being an idol. He’d just thought that winning at Black or White would have been enough to prove that he could be successful as an idol. 

When Sougo didn’t reply, Tamaki frowned. No matter how angry he’d been at the omega just minutes ago, he wouldn’t stand for anything that made Sougo upset. “We can discuss this after we get back to the dorm, okay? We'll be able to work something out with the others.” 

With a resigned sigh, Sougo nodded. “Okay. Should we get back to recording, then?” 

Chapter Text

Tsumugi frowned, looking at the boys in the room. “Same time slot or not, don’t mind it and keep on going! It just so happens that this spirited music show of theirs starts at the same time as us!” the beta told them cheerfully, though it was obvious that she was forcing it. 

“They’re going to be held up by a special programme, so their first broadcast is two weeks after ours,” she continued. “In that time, let’s do our best to get all the viewers onto our show!” 

Riku nodded fiercely in agreement, smiling at Sougo in what he hoped came across as reassurance. “Yeah, Sougo-san! It was just by chance!” 

Nagi was quick to agree, holding up his favourite MagiKona plush in front of Sougo. “Don’t mind! Look, Kokona is smiling!” 

Sougo pursed his lips, glancing down at his hands that were folded neatly in his lap. He wasn’t naive enough to think that it truly was a mere coincidence that TRIGGER’s new show was to be aired in the exact same time slot as A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7. The fact that the others thought he wouldn’t know was, honestly, a little insulting. There was absolutely no way that this was by chance, as Riku had said. 

“But... Even so...” 

Tamaki pursed his lips, glancing at his boyfriend and wondering what he could possibly say that would make Sougo feel better. The omega had been relatively silent throughout their schedule, forcing smiles when it was required of him and responding to questions only when he had to. Tamaki had ended up doing most of the talking, covering up for Sougo’s uptight behaviour as well as he was able to. 

Sougo hadn’t spoken much on the ride back to the dorm, either. When Tamaki had tried to broach the topic, Sougo had simply shaken his head and closed his eyes, leaning against Tamaki’s shoulder. “I’m a little tired, Tamaki-kun,” he’d said. “I’m going to take a quick nap. Wake me up when we’re back.” 

And Tamaki knew that, while Sougo had been obviously avoiding the topic, he wasn’t lying. He could smell Sougo’s weariness, could see it in the paleness of his face. Even if Sougo wasn’t physically drained, he was definitely mentally drained. 

Tamaki couldn’t even find it in himself to be angry at Sougo for nagging at him, not when his boyfriend was so affected by what his father was doing. The only thing on his mind was that he had to cheer Sougo up somehow. 

Whether he felt this way because of his alpha instincts or because he genuinely wanted Sougo to stop being upset, he wasn’t sure. But I guess comforting Souchan is an instinct, now, Tamaki realised, and it’s not only because I’m his alpha. 

Before Tamaki could say anything, though, Yamato looked over at the omega. “You were prepared for at least this much though, weren’t you?” he asked easily, posing the question as if it was a challenge. Sougo stared at Yamato in mild confusion, as well as relief. If anyone was willing to be brutally honest to him, it was Yamato. “Because we were. Alright, I’ll read you a book, so you’d better fall asleep.” 

“...why are you comforting me like you would a child?” 

Yamato blinked, eyes flickering to Riku for a brief moment. “I thought it was the current trend or something...” the leader mumbled. After all, Mitsuki and Sougo had done the exact same thing just a few days ago. 

“Also!” Tsumugi piped up suddenly, causing the others to jump slightly in their seats before turning to look at her. “We have other advantages!” 

“Advantages? Like what?” 

“Yamato-san got a call for a really big job!” 

“That’s amazing! Yamasan, a big job!” Tamaki exclaimed excitedly. He wasn’t even sure how big of a job it was, and neither was he sure about whether or not this new job would help with viewership ratings for their show. But it was a chance to cheer Sougo up, and Tamaki wasn’t about to let it go so easily. 

“Onii-san would much rather let a bunch of small jobs pile up over time and work at them leisurely, but...” the beta trailed off, and Tamaki felt his smile slip off his face. He'd thought that what they needed to do now was to increase IDOLiSH7’s popularity as much as possible, so why did Yamato sound so reluctant to take this job on? 

“Re:vale’s Yuki-san is the lead actor for this, and it’s the movie adaptation of the critically acclaimed police drama series, Mission!” she elaborated, hoping that the prospect of working with Yuki would make Yamato more inclined to accept. “There’s an important, brand-new character, and Yamato-san got an offer for the part!” 

“Yamato-san in Mission!? Isn't this your big break!?” Mitsuki asked, sounding even more excited than Yamato himself. 

“I’m not doing it.” 

The chatter about Yamato’s new role ceased immediately, all heads turning to look at the beta in a mix of surprise and disbelief. “Huh?” 

“Can you turn them down?” Yamato requested, as casually as if he’d just told Tsumugi that he didn’t want an extra serving of noodles with his meal. He didn’t sound at all like he was turning down an offer for a huge movie role, one that could increase IDOLiSH7’s popularity twofold. “I don’t have any intentions of appearing on the silver screen.” 

“But...” Tsumugi started, at a complete loss for words. She looked to Iori for help; the omega helped her out with management even now, so he knew exactly how much of an impact Yamato acting in a movie would be on the group’s popularity. “Yuki-san will be there as well, and it’s such a big chance...” 

Yamato didn’t even spare her a glance, instead focusing on clearing his papers off the table. “I’m not doing it. Period.” 

Iori resisted the urge to click his tongue in annoyance – surely Yamato had his reasons for turning down an offer like this. “But it’s a long-awaited chance, right when everyone’s doing their best,” Iori chimed in, trying not to sound too pushy. 

Whatever personal reason Yamato had for not wanting to act in a movie didn’t matter now, because everyone was doing their part to spread IDOLiSH7’s name. Iori hadn’t wanted to take over Riku’s place as centre, either, but he was doing it regardless. If he was able to do this much, for IDOLiSH7’s sake as well as Riku’s, then Yamato could jolly well act in a movie. 

Still, Iori held his tongue, not wanting to start a fight with the leader. Riku would probably be stressed if they got into an argument, and Iori wanted to avoid that. 

“Yamato, it’s a personal rule of mine not to pry into things,” Nagi started. 

“That’s good,” the beta replied dismissively. “Keep it up till the day you die.” 

“Take off your glasses.” 

“Why are you breaking that rule all of a sudden?” 

“Why are you hiding it? I know,” Nagi said, noticing the way Yamato tensed slightly. “I know what Yamato’s secret is. Probably.” 

Mitsuki looked at his boyfriend curiously, wondering what exactly this secret was. He certainly hadn’t heard of it before, at least not from Yamato himself. Nagi had dropped a few hints on occasion, although the alpha wasn’t 100% sure that he was correct, either. “Nagi does? Did you hear it from Yamato-san? And by secret, do you mean that one...” Mitsuki trailed off, fairly certain that his guess was wrong. 

“No,” Nagi said immediately. “However, I’d like him to stop hiding and talk about it. Not only are we your fellow group members – we're also your best friends.” 

“Oh? I know too, Rokuya Nagi, what your real identity is.” 

Oh... so you watched as a tail sprang out of me, shadow growing long beneath the full moon, in the dead of the night?” Nagi questioned. He knew for a fact that Yamato couldn’t possibly know his real identity, so he didn’t understand why the beta was even trying to lie to him. 

Yamato’s lips curved upwards into a sly smile. “Close... Lend me your ear for a bit,” he said, waiting for Nagi to lean in towards him. “How about we watch some Kokona-chan, together in your room?” 

Yes! Yes! YES! I agree wholeheartedly! We must head towards my theatre room right this instant!” 

“W-what did you say?” Riku asked, eyes wide in confusion. 

“Whatever it was, it seems like he hit the target,” Mitsuki replied dryly, knowing for sure that Yamato had somehow bribed the blond alpha. He recognised the excited lilt in Nagi’s voice well enough, knew that it could only be the promise of watching MagiKona that would make Nagi so excited. “I mean, he did say yes a bunch of times.” 

Yamato chuckled, pleased that he’d gotten away for now. If he wasn’t a beta, though, he’d be able to smell the mild disappointment in Nagi’s scent. Disappointment in the fact that Yamato still wasn’t willing to share more about his past with them, even though they’d already known each other for a year. “Well, it’s naptime for onii-san, so...” 

“Yamato, lend me your ear,” Nagi said, repeating Yamato’s words from a few moments ago. 

“Hm?” 

Nagi leaned in, smiling innocently as he whispered, “I’m giving you the slip this time. Be thankful.” 

Yamato pulled back, looking affronted. “You...” 

“Okay! Let’s go!” Nagi exclaimed, sending a wink in Mitsuki’s direction. “Go to my room afterwards, Mitsuki! Don't miss me too much! I’ll join you once I’m done!” 

“I won’t,” Mitsuki assured with a small chuckle. 

Nagi went over to his boyfriend, placing a quick kiss on his lips before leaving the living area with Yamato in tow. They went to Mitsuki’s room, which had long ago been converted into Nagi’s personal theatre room. Mitsuki still slept there, sometimes, but he was usually in Nagi’s room. The alpha was a clingy sort, after all. 

They sat through the first few episodes of MagiKona, and even Yamato knew the lines by heart at this point. “Magical  Flash! Kokona exclaimed, pointing her magical stick at the villain in front of her. 

Yamato sighed, staring at the screen disinterestedly. “How many times has it been already...” 

“Wonderful things will always be wonderful, no matter how many times you watch them.” 

Magical ★ Turbo!” 

Yawning, the beta mumbled, “I’m so sleepy...” 

“Yamato is a difficult person. It is quite lonesome, that you’d glare down even your friends the instant people touch upon your secret,” Nagi sighed, earning himself a sideways glance from Yamato. “What are you afraid of? Please trust us more. I pray that you will find the courage to tell all of us, one day.” 

 

---- 
 
 
The next few days passed by in a flash, and soon enough it was time for the group to reveal their new song to the public, the one with Iori as the centre. 

It was the new theme song for A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7, due to have its first broadcast next week. They’d be revealing the song on Shimooka’s show before that, more to get a feel of how people would react to a centre change than anything else. They didn’t want the fans to get a rude shock by revealing it only during the first episode of their show – the backlash would be inevitable if they did. 

They were currently in the waiting room, already changed into their outfits for the new song. Iori was sitting on the couch, looking through the programme schedule for the fourth time. 

He glanced up when the door opened, and one of the programme staff stepped in. “Now, shall we get ready for the filming?” he asked, gaze sweeping over the idols in the room. 

Iori nodded as he got up. “Understood.” 

“Ichi, you nervous?” Yamato asked, earning himself an incredulous look from the omega. The staff member left the waiting room, presumably to inform the director that they would be ready to begin soon. “It’s your first broadcast ever since you were made centre.” 

Glancing at his boyfriend, Iori shrugged. “Please don’t lump me together with him,” he said, smiling mischievously when Riku puffed his cheeks up indignantly. He'd been hoping to get this exact reaction from Riku, because for some reason, the alpha was more nervous than Iori himself. The least Iori could do was to tease him a little, get him to calm his nerves. Riku being nervous would undoubtedly affect Iori as well. 

“Wha- Just what do you mean by that!?” Riku demanded, lips downturned in a pout. 

“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Iori continued, the amused smile not leaving his face. 

“How irritating,” Riku grumbled, looking around quickly before pulling Iori into a quick hug. He pressed his lips to Iori’s cheek, making sure to be fast, and grinned at the omega. “But, well, you’re really helping me out by doing this, Iori. Don't be nervous, and do your best!” 

“Like I said,” Iori repeated firmly, though Riku could see through him easily, “I’m not nervous. Let's go.” 

The group made their way to the studio, watching as Shimooka ran through the programme intro, waiting for him to give them the cue to go onstage. To some extent, all of them were slightly nervous about today. If the fans didn’t take well to the centre change, they didn’t know what they would do. 

“It’s time for our next guest, IDOLiSH7!” 

As usual, the audience burst into screams as the group walked to the centre of the stage. Their formation was different from how they usually stood – this time, Iori stood where Riku usually stood. Riku stood at the end of the row, as far from the centre as was possible. They'd arranged their formation like this to avoid the possibility of Iori being overshadowed by Riku’s presence, and it seemed to be working. 

The screams died down, replaced by confused exclamations of “Eh!?” from the fans. 

“And as for the new song they’ll be singing for us this time! It seems like the centre is Iori-kun.” 

“Yes. I look forward to working with you today,” he greeted. “This is my first time trying this, so I’m a little nervous. Please don’t be too hard on us.” 

Shimooka laughed heartily. “But you sure look calm, Iori-kun. What are your thoughts on this, Riku?” 

“Iori always scolded me during my time as centre, so this time I get to give him advice!” Riku exclaimed brightly. Whatever nervousness he’d felt previously seemed to have dissipated, and Iori was glad that he wouldn’t have to worry about Riku’s condition while performing. It was hard enough to have to pay attention to everyone’s positions while singing and dancing. 

“That’s what you say, but what do you think, Iori-kun?” 

“Of course, I welcome it with open arms,” the omega replied easily. Then, with a slightly teasing smile, he added, “If it’s valuable advice, that is.” 

Riku frowned, although there was no malice behind it. “Hey now, what do you mean by that...” 

“It was a joke. We have a splendid song this time as well, and we’d love to have everyone listen to it as soon as possible.” 

Nodding, Shimooka turned back to face the audience. “With Izumi Iori-kun as the new centre, IDOLiSH7 has turned over a new leaf! And the song is, Perfection Gimmick! Give ’em a round of applause!” 

The intro of the song began playing, and the members of IDOLiSH7 got into position. Their timing was flawless, transitioning into the song smoothly and easily. Iori delivered his lines exactly like he’d had during the recording of the song, his voice unaffected by the fact that he was executing the choreography perfectly. 

Wow... Mitsuki thought, willing himself not to stare at Iori in awe. Somehow, it’s really easy to dance. Even though he’s my younger brother, what is this feeling of stability... 

Ichi... he can see everyone, Yamato realised with a start, noticing how Iori was positioning himself so that he was in the centre of their formation. Whenever someone steps out of place, he moves himself to balance it. 

Iorin  isn’t a super great singer  like  Rikkun  is, but when he’s centre, everything’s easier to do...  

Iori sure is amazing... Riku couldn’t help but think. Any other person might have been upset at being replaced, by their own boyfriend no less, but Riku couldn’t find it in himself to think like that. He knew he’d been given one too many chances, and his performance as of late was undeserving of the title of IDOLiSH7’s centre. The alpha was glad that, of all the members, it was Iori who’d taken over for him. He couldn’t be prouder of his boyfriend, even if he knew that it was exhausting to be the centre. I thought he’d be more nervous. I've got to do my best, too! 

Iori looked out at the audience as the song came to an end, chest heaving as he caught his breath. “And that was IDOLiSH7! Thank you very much.” 

 

--- 

 

“Iori,” Riku called out, just before Iori closed his room door. 

It was past ten, and they’d only just gotten back to the dorm after a celebratory dinner sponsored by Otoharu. The president himself hadn’t been there, but he’d given Tsumugi express permission to use the company card. “They’ve worked hard for it! Go and have some nice food!” was what he’d told Tsumugi over the phone. 

As per Iori’s request, they’d gone to have steak at a restaurant near the studio. It wasn’t that the omega had particularly wanted to have steak, but he vaguely recalled Riku mentioning it a few days back. He didn’t suggest it because Riku was upset about the centre change, per se. Iori simply wanted to do whatever he could for Riku to feel better as soon as possible. 

The omega paused, raising a brow as he turned to look at Riku. “What is it, Nanase-san?” 

“You did really well today. I’m super proud of you.” 

With a soft chuckle, Iori shook his head. That Riku had bothered to praise him warmed Iori’s heart; it probably didn’t feel good to see someone other than himself standing in the centre position, yet Riku had never once complained about it. Iori’d always thought that he should be the one who was proud of Riku, for taking everything that was thrown at him in his stride. 

“You too,” Iori replied. “Besides, I’ve got to make sure I can hand the centre position back to you properly next time. I can’t be slacking off now, can I?” 

Riku’s smile widened, and he moved to envelope Iori in his arms. Iori startled at the sudden movement, not having expected it, but relaxed into Riku’s hold within a few moments. He'd been intending to go and shower before retiring for the night, but he supposed he didn’t quite mind being held by his boyfriend. 

It was comforting, especially after a long day at work. Iori hadn’t said it aloud, but he knew that Riku could tell he’d been nervous to perform. How could he not have been, when the shoes he’d had to fill were those of Riku’s? Riku, with his superior singing and charisma. Iori didn’t think he’d ever be able to be as impressive a performer as Riku, even if the audience had reacted rather positively to the change. 

Iori himself wasn’t too happy with the performance. It'd gone as well as it could have, but there was something lacking in it that Iori didn’t possess. He wouldn’t be able to emulate the kind of presence that Riku exuded on stage, and he didn’t really want to anyway. That was Riku’s job. Iori wasn’t intending to hold onto the position of centre for an extended period of time. 

He felt Riku lean towards the crook of his neck, nose nuzzling gently against his scent glands, and Iori craned his neck so that Riku could scent him more easily. They were still in the corridor, though at least the others were already in their own rooms. Iori didn’t particularly care if he and Riku were seen, since he’d already gotten used to open displays of affection by now. 

They stood there in silence, simply allowing themselves to bask in their partner’s scent and unwind from the day’s activities. A contented purr rumbled in the back of Iori’s throat. 

No words needed to be exchanged between the two; they were content just being in each other’s presence, a private moment away from prying eyes. 

Their peaceful silence didn’t last for long, though, as a door was abruptly thrown open, causing both Riku and Iori to jump apart in surprise. They turned to see who it was, only to be met with the sight of Sougo standing outside Tamaki’s door, visibly fuming, although they weren’t sure why. 

Riku leaned in to whisper in Iori’s ear. “Isn’t Sougo-san's heat starting tomorrow?” 

“It is,” Iori confirmed, just as confused as his boyfriend was. It wasn’t unusual for the members of MEZZO to get into an argument, never mind the fact that it was late at night and they should probably be asleep by now. However, for Tamaki to piss Sougo off the night before his heat was due to begin was unusual. 

Stepping into Iori’s room so that they were out of sight, Riku and Iori made sure to keep quiet, waiting for either Tamaki or Sougo to say something. 

“Souchan, wait.” 

Don’t follow me,” Sougo snapped, turning to glare at the alpha. “I don’t even know why we’re still arguing about this, Tamaki-kun. We've been through this already.” 

“That’s because you insist on following the programme! It’s inflexible and boring!” 

“And what, pray tell, is wrong with that?” Sougo questioned, before heaving a loud sigh. “I’m tired. I don’t want to argue about this with you right now. We can talk about it again after my heat ends, and maybe then you’ll be more willing to listen to me.” 

Wait-” 

“Let go, Tamaki-kun.” 

Riku and Iori heard Tamaki heave a sigh of his own. “You’re not going to borrow anything from me?” 

“I don’t want to,” Sougo said simply, wrenching his hand out of Tamaki’s hold. “Goodnight, Tamaki-kun.” 

The alpha was silent as Sougo stalked off, walking straight past his room and towards the heat rooms. 

A few seconds passed before Tamaki called out, “Rikkun. Iorin. I know you guys are there.” 

Riku was the first to poke his head out of the door, smiling sheepishly at Tamaki. “We didn’t mean to eavesdrop. What happened this time?” 

Tamaki huffed in annoyance, running a hand through his hair in apparent frustration. “The same thing we’ve been arguing about for the past few months, what else? Souchan’s just stubborn. I'm sure he’ll come around eventually.” 

“You’re just as stubborn, though?” Iori pointed out dryly. “Ousaka-san is always giving in to you, so why don’t you try to do things his way once in a while? For all you know, you might realise that it isn’t so bad to stick to the way things were meant to be done.” 

“It’s boring,” Tamaki repeated, not at all convinced. “But anyway, Iorin, can you help me bring a few of my sweaters to Souchan’s room? He says he doesn’t want to borrow anything from me, but it’ll be more painful for him without them, right?” 

Iori simply nodded in response, more than aware of the fact that Tamaki had just ignored the matter at hand. Tamaki never did like to deal with anything he deemed troublesome. It wouldn’t be a big issue, if not for the fact that that was exactly what led to the constant arguments between him and Sougo. It was getting tiring to listen to the couple bicker about the exact same thing every few days. 

“Thanks,” Tamaki said, disappearing into his room to grab whatever he intended to lend Sougo. 

“I’ll try to talk to Tamaki about it,” Riku said, knowing what was on Iori’s mind. It wouldn’t do to have Tamaki and Sougo at loggerheads with each other forever, especially since they had work to do as MEZZO. Riku knew he and Iori argued often as well, but never as often as Tamaki and Sougo, and never for such an extended period of time. 

“That’ll be good,” Iori sighed. Both Tamaki and Sougo were professional enough not to let their work be affected by their arguments, at least not significantly, but that didn’t mean it was alright for them to go on like this. “I’ll speak to Ousaka-san, then.” 

Riku pursed his lips. “You haven’t even gotten a chance to shower.” 

“Neither have you,” Iori reminded. He certainly hadn’t meant to spend the night playing mediator for their friends. “Let’s try to make this quick then.” 

Tamaki came back out of his room, a pile of clothes in hand, and he passed them over to Iori. “Here.” 

“Do you want me to relay anything to him? An apology, maybe?” 

“Just tell him goodnight for me,” Tamaki replied, after a moment of thought. 

Iori resisted the urge to sigh again; Tamaki wasn’t the type to apologise if he didn’t think that he was in the wrong. And, well, he wasn’t exactly wrong. The audience liked his candidness, be it in the way he responded to questions or the way he performed. But Sougo wasn’t telling him to stop putting in adlibs completely, only that he should do it in moderation. Iori personally didn’t think that was too difficult a request to fulfil. “Alright then.” 

 

--- 

 

A knock on his door snapped Sougo out of his train of thought, and the omega tensed. He didn’t want to start arguing with Tamaki again – that was why he’d made sure to put some distance between them. The last thing Sougo wanted was to say something he didn’t mean, in a fit of anger. 

It was only when Sougo realised that the scent of the person standing outside his door was decidedly not Tamaki that he relaxed. Tamaki’s scent was present, but faint enough that Sougo knew Tamaki himself wasn’t there. “Iori-kun? You can come in.” 

“Sorry to disturb you, Ousaka-san,” Iori said as he entered the room, setting the pile down on the bedside table before pulling a chair over. “Yotsuba-san said to tell you goodnight.” 

Sougo chuckled humourlessly. “No apology, huh. Well, I guess I wouldn’t expect anything else from Tamaki-kun. Thank you, for helping to bring his clothes over, even though I told him I didn’t need them.” 

Iori shrugged. “He asked if your heat would be more painful without borrowing anything from him. I just told him the truth,” the younger replied. He noted that Sougo wasn’t upset, if his scent was any sort of indication. Simply resigned. “So? Do you mind telling me how you two got into an argument again?” 

The question elicited a heavy sigh from Sougo, and he drew his knees up to his chest. “I was telling him not to cause trouble for the staff at his individual schedules. He got annoyed, I guess, and he told me that he doesn’t do that. I brought up the adlib issue as an example, and you can probably guess how it went from there. I didn’t mean to bring it up again, you know. It was just the first thing I thought of.” 

“I can understand why he’s frustrated,” Iori said, brows furrowed in thought. “I probably wouldn’t like it, too, if someone was always telling me not to do something that I don’t think is wrong. I do agree with you though. Yotsuba-san can’t always be doing whatever he wants.” 

“My point exactly!” Sougo exclaimed, eyes widening in surprise at his own outburst. “I’m sorry. It’s just that sometimes, I feel like I really don’t understand how Tamaki-kun thinks.” 

“I think... that he’s used to doing things his way. I know we’ve all been together as a group for a year already, but Yotsuba-san grew up with the mindset that he had to protect his younger sister. I'm not sure what he had to do before they were sent to the orphanage, but I imagine those days weren’t easy for him. He does what he thinks is right, because that’s what he’s been doing all this time.” 

“But-” 

And,” Iori added, looking at Sougo pointedly, “Ousaka-san, you’ve grown up with the mindset that you have to do as everyone else says. That if you don’t, you’ll be punished in some way. I’m not saying that it’s okay for Yotsuba-san to do as he likes all the time, but it’s undeniable that his charm lies in his honesty. What I’m trying to say is that there should be some give and take.” 

“I’ve never told him not to put in adlibs,” Sougo pointed out exasperatedly. “I only tell him not to stray too far away from the centre of the stage, or not break the formation too much. It makes things messy.” 

“I know. But instead of putting things like that, why not change your phrasing a little? Don't tell him not to stray too far from the centre of the stage – say that it’s difficult for you to balance things out. Don't tell him not to break the formation – say that it’s fine, but only to an extent that you’re able to keep up with. He's good at dancing, so sometimes he doesn’t realise that it’s not easy for the rest of us to follow.” 

“That makes me sound... awfully weak,” Sougo said hesitantly. 

“Despite what he says and does, Yotsuba-san cares a great deal about you. Especially when it comes to your wellbeing,” Iori said simply. “He probably thinks that it’s better for you if he does what he can to please the audience, even if it means that you’ll get angry at him for it. But if you tell him that he should cut down on the adlibs because it’s hard on you, I think he’ll be more willing to listen.” 

“I’d feel like I’m making use of his feelings for me, though.” 

“I wouldn’t have suggested this if there was a better way to go about things,” Iori replied  with a soft sigh He didn’t want to manipulate Tamaki like this, either, but the couple had been arguing about the same thing for far too long.  “You two have been going back and forth about this issue for months now. If simply talking about it was enough, then the matter would’ve been settled already, don’t you think?”

“I suppose so,” Sougo allowed, forcing a smile on his face. “Thank you, Iori-kun. I’ll try to say that next time, then. It's already late. You should shower and go to bed.” 

Nodding, Iori got up from the chair. “Don’t worry too much about it. Nanase-san promised to talk to Yotsuba-san about this, too. What you should be focusing on right now is to get through your heat. I'll come by to check on you tomorrow.” 

“Yeah, that’d be good. Goodnight, Iori-kun.” 

“Goodnight, Ousaka-san,” Iori replied, leaving the room and closing the door behind him. He could only hope that things worked out between the two. 

Chapter Text

Tamaki stared blankly at Riku, sitting on his bed with Sougo’s King Pudding plush in his lap. 

Tamaki had the exact same plush, stowed away somewhere in the back of his cabinet. He could just have easily taken his own plush, instead of retrieving Sougo’s plush from his room. But his plush didn’t smell at all like his omega, and if Tamaki was going to have to spend the next seven days without his boyfriend then the plush could at least be a substitute of sorts. 

Riku was seated on the chair in Tamaki’s room, looking at Tamaki with a level gaze of his own. “So.” 

“You wanted to talk to me about something, right, Rikkun?” 

The redhead nodded. “About your argument with Sougo-san.” 

“I guessed as much,” Tamaki sighed, fingers absentmindedly playing with the plush. “What about it?” 

“What started it this time?” 

The thought of it made Tamaki groan in annoyance. “You know Souchan likes to tell me not to cause trouble for the staff, right? But I haven’t done that recently, so hearing the same thing from him is getting kind of annoying. I told him that, and of course, he had to mention the adlib thing again. I got angry, he got angry, and here we are.” 

“You know he’s only doing that because he cares,” Riku told him. “I’m sure he doesn’t mean to nag. Iori’s kind of the same, so I understand how you feel.” 

“But at least Iorin trusts you to handle yourself at individual schedules,” the younger grumbled. “Every time I have an individual schedule, Souchan has to make it a point to remind me to behave. Don’t cause trouble for the hosts, don’t be rude. It's always the same thing.” 

Riku looked at Tamaki in mild disbelief, wondering if Tamaki really didn’t understand the reason behind Sougo’s constant nagging. Even if Tamaki spent a large part of his childhood without parents to worry about him, surely the orphanage director had been the same as Sougo. 

Riku himself had been reminded, day and night, to take care of his health. It was annoying, but Riku knew that everyone had his interests at heart. “He doesn’t want you to get hurt,” Riku said, resisting the urge to roll his eyes when Tamaki scowled in response. “Don’t you remember what happened with your dad? It’s okay if we’re there to defend you, but we can’t always be there.” 

“I’ve learnt my lesson, though.” 

“That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to worry. It's just like how, even though Sougo-san's been off suppressants for a few months already, you still worry that his health will suffer. Just be more patient with him. He’s just trying to do what he thinks is best.” 

“But it’s troublesome when he doesn’t let me do what I want to do,” Tamaki complained. He knew Riku had a point, though he preferred not to acknowledge it. In the same way that he worried about Sougo, the omega worried about him. 

They were together with each other because they cared about each other, and not only because they were a fated pair. It was just that their ways of showing that they cared were vastly different; Tamaki believed in letting his partner do as he wanted while he protected him from others, whereas Sougo wanted Tamaki to learn how to go along with others in order to protect himself. 

He supposed he couldn’t blame Sougo for that. The omega had grown up in a somewhat oppressive environment, surrounded by alphas whom he’d had to submit to. It didn’t make it any better that his omegan nature made him naturally more submissive, more willing to follow the wishes of others even at his own expense. 

Tamaki just didn’t like that Sougo was still unable to break out of that mindset. He was slowly getting used to doing the things he wanted to do, but he still had issues when dealing with those of a higher authority. If Souchan can’t express himself freely, then I’ll do it in his stead, was what Tamaki had originally thought. And Sougo had gotten upset about it, so many times, but Tamaki had continued to do it anyway. 

“Iori doesn’t always let me do what I want to do either,” Riku pointed out, “but I know he’s trying to help me. Try to think from his perspective for a bit, okay? He doesn’t tell you not to put in adlibs, just to cut down on them a little. The fans like it, but the hosts might not. He's afraid that they’ll take it out on you when he’s not around.” 

“I... guess...” Tamaki mumbled, looking down to stare blankly at the top of King Pudding’s head. If Riku put it that way, he supposed it did make sense. “I do cut down on them though! At least, I think I do. I used to change up the choreography about ten times in one song, but now it’s, like, five or six.” 

“Make it two or three then,” Riku replied simply, smiling at the way Tamaki visibly deflated. “Or tell Sougo-san that you might add in an adlib at a certain part? I know it’s all about the emotion, but he doesn’t know what you’re feeling.” 

Tamaki let out another frustrated groan. “I’ll try. It kind of sucks to see Souchan so angry all the time.” 

Riku offered Tamaki a pat on the shoulder. “It’ll work out. Try to give in to him more. You know he’s been stressing over the whole FSC issue, too,” Riku reminded. “I’ll go and shower now. See you tomorrow, Tamaki.” 

“Thanks, Rikkun. See you in the morning.” 

 

--- 

 

Riku stepped out of Tamaki’s room, sighing softly to himself as he headed back to his own room to grab a fresh set of clothes. He understood Tamaki’s frustrations, to some extent. Iori was always looking out for him, even when he didn’t know it. And it could be suffocating at times, but Riku would never tell that to Iori’s face. He didn’t ever want to undermine Iori’s concern for him. 

On his way to the bathroom, he ran into Iori outside the omega’s room. “Ah,” Iori said, stopping in his tracks. “You’re done talking to Yotsuba-san?” 

“Yeah,” the alpha replied, noting the apparent exhaustion reflected in Iori’s face. He tugged on Iori’s wrist, pulling the omega into his room and seating him on the bed. Wordlessly, Riku sifted through Iori’s cupboard, quickly gathering a set of clean clothes and holding it out to his boyfriend. “Go and shower. I’ll make something warm for you to drink after you’re done.” 

Iori opened his mouth to argue, remind Riku that he, too, had yet to shower. But Riku gave him a look that left no room for argument, and Iori sighed softly before taking the proffered set of clothes. “Okay. I won’t take too long,” Iori promised, suppressing a yawn as he made his way to the shower. 

“Take your time,” the alpha said instead, earning himself a rather disgruntled scowl from the omega. 

Riku waited until he heard the bathroom door close before heading into the living area, putting his own set of clothes on the sofa and going to the kitchen. He pulled out the usual – honey and milk, as well as the jar of chamomile tea leaves that Mitsuki’d bought some time back. 

It was only after the milk was heated and the tea brewing that Riku sat down on one of the bar stools, resting his head on the table and letting out a small yawn. He hadn’t wanted to show that he was tired in front of Iori, not because of his pride as an alpha, but because he didn’t want Iori to have to worry about him, too. 

Riku knew, better than anyone, how stressful and tiring it could be as the centre. He didn’t doubt that Iori would be able to pull the role off perfectly, just as he had done in today’s recording. He was just afraid that he wouldn’t be able to recover quickly enough, that Iori would have to drag out his time as the centre. 

Eventually, it would take its toll on Iori. Just one day, one recording, was able to tire Iori out to such an extent. It was probably also because Iori wasn’t quite used to being in the spotlight yet, have most of the questions directed towards him. Still, Riku didn’t want Iori to be able to get used to being the centre. It would mean that he was taking too long to bounce back from whatever slump he was in, and Riku didn’t want that. 

He didn’t realise when Iori came into the living area, as caught up in his thoughts as he was, and jolted in surprise when Iori asked, “A penny for your thoughts, Nanase-san?” 

“It’s nothing much,” Riku assured, though Iori wasn’t convinced in the least, if the sceptical look he wore was any sort of indication. “I heated some milk and made chamomile tea. Together with some honey, it should help you sleep better, right?” 

Iori shrugged, walking towards the kitchen counter and mixing everything together. “Sleeping with you would probably help me sleep better,” Iori said offhandedly, glad that Riku wasn’t able to see his blush in the dim lighting. “It’s your turn to shower. I'll keep some tea for you.” 

Riku hummed his acknowledgement, walking over to Iori and pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Thanks.” 

Iori watched his boyfriend trudge out of the living area, seeming just as tired as he was, and heaved a soft sigh. While Riku’s health was better now than it’d been a few weeks ago, it was still rare for the alpha to get through an entire night without waking up in a coughing fit. It was still chilly in April, and the pollen from blooming flowers didn’t exactly help. 

At least Nanase-san doesn’t have to stress over his condition during recordings, Iori thought, feeling somewhat relieved. They would likely be performing Perfection Gimmick when they were to guest on shows, until the day that Riku could return as IDOLiSH7’s centre. The formation of Perfection Gimmick was such that Riku was almost always positioned in the back, out of the spotlight and out of the audience’s focus. 

There wasn’t much that could be done about lives, though – they couldn’t just change the centre for all their previous songs, so Riku just had to push through. Luckily, they had only a handful of lives spread over the coming months. 

Sitting down at the dining table, Iori took a sip of his tea, humming appreciatively at the taste. It wasn’t all that often that they had time for what used to be a nightly routine, and honestly the omega quite missed the peace and quiet. He did argue with Riku at times, over the silliest of things, but it had always been nice to spend a little time sitting with each other, taking sips of their drinks and simply unwinding from the busyness of the day. 

Recently, it was all either of them could do to not fall asleep immediately after showering. If they did have some free time, they would be joined by the others, and they’d discuss the day’s happenings, or talk about upcoming schedules. They all had more individual schedules, so naturally there was more to share with each other. It was interesting to hear about, but Iori sometimes found himself missing the days when they were less busy, when he and Riku had more time to spend with each other. 

“I’m beginning to feel like a whiny, lovesick teenager,” Iori mumbled to himself, staring blankly into the contents of his cup. It didn’t help at all that management matters kept him busy, though Tsumugi had taken some of the workload back from him. 

He hadn’t imagined that being the centre would put this much additional stress on him, and it allowed him to see Riku in a new light. His alpha truly was amazing, to be able to project so much brightness and positivity even when his health wasn’t in top condition. Iori didn’t think he’d ever be able to do it; unlike Riku, he hadn’t become an idol out of love for the job, but because he’d wanted to support Mitsuki. 

When he smelt Riku’s scent getting closer, he looked towards the entryway expectantly, smiling when Riku finally came back into view. “Did you dry your hair properly?” Iori asked, out of habit than the need to nag, and immediately earned himself a pout from the alpha. 

“It’s dry enough, I think,” Riku replied, and Iori let out an exasperated chuckle. 

“I made your share,” Iori said, instead of nagging any further. With how Sougo and Tamaki were currently not on speaking terms, at least till after Sougo’s heat, Iori didn’t want to risk going too far. He knew fully well how bad he could get when it came to fussing over Riku – the alpha had grumbled about it one too many times. 

Eyes lighting up, Riku quickly took the seat opposite Iori, picking up the cup of tea and letting it warm up his hands. “Does it taste okay? I’ve never used Mitsuki’s chamomile before.” 

Iori nodded, taking a sip of the drink as if to prove his point. “It’s perfect for a cold night like today,” the omega commented, urging his boyfriend to start on his own drink. “Never mind that. How do you think I fared during today’s recording? I know you said I did well and all, but is there anything you think I could’ve done better?” 

Riku hummed thoughtfully, recalling how amazed he’d been by Iori’s performance. “You really managed to cover for all of us if we were out of position, something that I haven’t been able to do even though I’ve been centre for over half a year. It was easy to dance when you’re the one leading us,” Riku admitted. He didn’t feel inferior; there were things that only he could do, and he was aware of that. 

Still, it would be nice to have Iori’s skillset, make things easier for the other members and give them a peace of mind. As the centre, all Riku had felt was that the members were worried about him, even on days when he was doing well. They did it subconsciously, and he didn’t blame them, but it just made him feel unreliable. 

“But my stage presence probably can’t compare to yours and Kujo-san's,” Iori added. 

“Everyone’s different,” Riku reminded with a shrug. “It was a new experience, is what I have to say.” 

“Which is why there’s seven of us, to balance things out,” Iori agreed with a smile. He yawned involuntarily, noting that he’d finished most of his drink, and glanced up to see Riku giving him a worried look. “I’m not going to collapse from exhaustion, you know.” 

“But you guys treat me like that all the time...” 

“We can relook that when your attacks become less frequent.” Iori gave Riku a pointed look, to which Riku responded with a disgruntled groan. “After you finish your drink, do you think it’ll be okay to sleep together tonight?” 

Riku raised a brow. “You’re sure? I have an earlier schedule tomorrow, so I’ll probably accidentally wake you up when I get up to prepare for the day,” he reminded. He was also tempted to mention that, as usual, his coughing would keep Iori up. But he was the same as Iori, in that he didn’t want to harp on the same topic endlessly and end up like Tamaki and Sougo. 

“I’ll be fine,” Iori assured, finishing whatever was left of his drink and getting up to wash the cup. Riku downed his tea as well, though he had significantly more tea left, and Iori looked at him with a sort of exasperated fondness. “You didn’t have to rush,” the omega chided, nonetheless taking Riku’s empty cup and washing it as well. 

When Iori was done drying his hands, Riku held onto his wrist, leading the way to his room as if Iori didn’t know how to get there. “I wanted to get to bed more quickly,” Riku explained as they walked. “We both need to get some rest.” 

“I suppose...” Iori conceded, letting Riku pull him along the corridor and into the alpha’s room. 

They got settled into bed quickly enough, by now familiar with how they fit together. Riku was the hugger in their relationship, although Iori occasionally liked to use Riku as his personal bolster as well. 

It was all too easy for Iori to snuggle up to Riku’s chest, even though he was just that bit taller than the alpha, and for Riku to throw a leg over his boyfriend. Already Iori could feel his eyes fluttering shut; it had been a tiring day for him, despite not having done much throughout the day. He hadn’t realised just how mentally exhausted he’d been by the day’s activities. 

He felt Riku’s lips against his forehead, and a contented smile made its way onto Iori’s face. The next few days would only get busier, with the rest of them having to fill up Sougo’s spot in individual schedules, so Iori wanted to cherish all the rest he could get. “Sweet dreams, Iori,” Riku mumbled, sounding like he was already half-asleep. 

Biting back a chuckle, he’s too cute, Iori nodded. “You too, Nanase-san. Goodnight.” 

That night, Iori woke up twice to the sound of Riku coughing, and he ended up feeling a little less rested than he’d hoped to be, but he found that he didn’t quite care. 

 

--- 

 

Iori had never been a big fan of checking on Sougo during his heat – not because he didn’t want to do his part in looking out for the elder, but because he always felt like he was intruding. And in a sense, he was intruding, but there wasn’t much that could be done about that. 

They couldn’t expect the betas to check on him, because if even Iori felt that it was awkward for Mitsuki to check on him during his heat, then it would definitely be worse for Sougo. Iori and Sougo weren’t extremely close, nor were they exceptionally close to Banri, but having another omega around was always comforting. This was especially so in the latter half of a heat, when the desire began to die down and they became just slightly more aware of their surroundings. 

The first day of heats were always the most awkward to deal with, because Iori wasn’t the best at ignoring Sougo’s moans and whimpers. He only needed to be in the room for a minute or so – drop off a jug of water and some energy drinks, and even then it felt too long. 

They hardly ever had time to properly eat during the first half of their heat, because it was near impossible to quell the heat without an alpha’s knot. It was good enough if they managed to get even a few minutes of reprieve, and they usually spent that time resting until the heat returned. 

That didn’t mean that Iori was comfortable with it. Even now, he was mentally preparing himself not to be too affected by the sight of Sougo in heat. He'd just finished a solo schedule and had yet to eat dinner, but it was in the late evening and Banri hadn’t had time to drop by the dorm today. Iori could only imagine how thirsty Sougo had to be by now. 

A full jug of water and energy drinks in hand, Iori made his way to Sougo’s heat room. He went through his own heat room, walking down the back corridor that was only accessible through heat rooms, and stopped in front of Sougo’s room. He could already smell the elder’s overpowering heat pheromones through the door, could hear Sougo panting as he worked his way through his heat. 

The Iori of the past would’ve waited until Sougo quietened down before entering, but he’d long since learnt that that would take too long. It was equally awkward if another wave of heat hit while Iori was in the room, anyway. Now, Iori simply knocked on the door, not waiting for permission to enter because Sougo wouldn’t have heard him, and pushed the door open. 

The sight of Sougo’s ass in the air was, while expected, still rather unnerving. Iori imagined this was how Sougo and Banri felt whenever they checked in on him during his heats – there was a sort of dissonance between the way they usually held themselves and the way they were during heats. 

There wasn’t much that could be done about that, though, and Iori sighed inwardly as he set the water and energy drinks on the table. He winced when Sougo let out a shuddering sob, moaning Tamaki’s name in a way that Iori hadn’t realised he was capable of. 

Cheeks flushed, Iori quickly excused himself from the room, shutting the door with a slam and hurrying down of the corridor. He'd rather not engrave the memory of Sougo moaning into his mind. 

He met Riku on the way back to the living area, a norm during Sougo’s heats, and he let Riku scent him thoroughly before they headed to the dining area. The last thing they needed was for Tamaki’s rut to be triggered as well. 

 

--- 

 

Sougo was vaguely aware of Iori entering his room during his heat, but he couldn’t find the energy to feel embarrassed at all. The only thing he could focus on, through the haze of his heat, was the insatiable urge to be filled. 

By Tamaki, and only Tamaki. 

He and Tamaki didn’t touch on the topic of sex, of heats and ruts, very often. After all, it was only a handful of days ago that Tamaki had turned 18. They'd celebrated it as a group, because Sougo hadn’t had much time to plan anything elaborate for the alpha. He felt bad for it though; Sougo hadn’t even had time to look for a proper present, because nothing had seemed appropriate. Tamaki had been visibly disappointed when they’d gone to bed with little more than a short make out session. 

In fact, even something as mundane as making out was rare for them. There were a whole lot of factors for this, the main one being that neither of them was willing to initiate any sort of intimacy. It was almost always Tamaki who made the first move, going up to Sougo and bluntly asking, “Can I kiss you?” 

Sougo had never said no – would never say no, not when Tamaki had bothered to ask him. It was somewhat endearing that Tamaki would even think to ask for permission to kiss him, as if Sougo could ever say no to him. He did wish that Tamaki could be this obedient when it came to work, but he supposed that would be asking too much of the younger. 

When Sougo heard the door click shut, signalling that Iori’d left the room, he nearly heaved a sigh of relief. He would have, if not for the unrelenting, throbbing warmth pooling in the pit of his stomach. It'd only been less than six hours since his heat had really started, and already his body felt as tired as if he was halfway through the week. 

His body was still in the middle of getting used to being off heat suppressants, despite this being his third heat since he’d stopped taking them. It certainly didn’t help at all that he’d just had a fight with Tamaki the night before his heat. It wasn’t because he was upset by the fight; he was, but being upset was the last thing on his mind right now. 

All Sougo could think about was how Tamaki looked when he was angry, how his annoyance and anger would be reflected in his scent and posture and expression. To his horror, the mental image of an angry Tamaki quite turned him on, and it was how Tamaki had looked the last time Sougo had seen him before his heat began. 

When Sougo thought of Tamaki, that was the image that his mind pulled up, and the mere thought of Tamaki looking at him like that now was enough to reduce the omega to a whimpering mess. Outside of his heat, Sougo wouldn’t be caught dead with such lewd thoughts of the alpha. He couldn’t help imagining himself pinned under Tamaki, let the alpha do as he wanted with him. Alphas were meant to be dominant, and it was only when he was in heat that Sougo was more than willing to submit. 

Sometimes, between bouts of heat, Sougo wondered what Tamaki would think if he knew of the fantasies Sougo occasionally had. Other times, he wondered if his boyfriend had similar fantasies during his rut, if he was the only thing on Tamaki’s mind throughout the three-day long rut. 

The omega came violently, slick spilling out of him as he pushed the dildo as far in as possible. Before he even had time to ride out this orgasm, though, Sougo could feel the beginnings of the next wave of heat, and he let out a pained whimper. “Tamaki-kun,” Sougo sobbed brokenly, once more pumping the dildo as his stomach continued to spasm. 

It was another four, maybe five, rounds before Sougo felt remotely sated. He couldn’t tell if he was actually sated, or if he was simply too tired to keep going. At some point, he’d lost count of the number of times he’d orgasmed, unable to differentiate between the beginning and ending of each orgasm. 

He managed to get himself a drink of water before falling back onto the bed, uncomfortably warm even though spring had only just begun. His hair, matted with sweat, stuck to his forehead, and Sougo couldn’t help the low whine that escaped him when he felt the coiling of heat in the pit of his stomach. 

When he finally managed to fall asleep, albeit for less than an hour, Sougo dreamt. He dreamt of Tamaki claiming him, of becoming mates with the alpha, of bearing his pup for him. He saw a young girl, with lavender eyes and white hair, but the droopiness of her eyes and lazy smile were all Tamaki’s. He saw her run towards him, heard her call him mama. Even in his dream, Sougo felt his heart ache with a painful longing, for something that he might not ever have. 

And when Sougo woke up in tears, he couldn’t tell if he was crying because of his heat or the dream. 

Chapter Text

A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7 is getting fantastic ratings!” 

Tsumugi nodded, mirroring Banri’s enthusiasm with ease. “Yes! We’ve been getting more requests for variety show appearances, especially for Mitsuki-san! Iori-san taking over as centre has also been very well-received, and everyone’s unique points are shining through, so the current IDOLiSH7 is very on point!” 

“Fan club membership has also been increasing! It really seems like they’ll become a popular group, just like Re:vale and TRIGGER!” 

It'd been an incredibly busy few months, and Tsumugi was honestly glad that she had Banri to manage IDOLiSH7’s PR. She couldn’t imagine having to deal with PR and the fan club, all while chauffeuring the boys to and from schedules and arranging said schedules. 

It was even better that Banri didn’t have to deal with heats despite being an omega – he'd been on suppressants for about as long as Tsumugi had known him. He'd also mentioned something along the lines of having easier heats than others, although she’d never personally seen Banri in heat before. He always made sure to take his suppressants on time, never late by a day. 

It did worry her that he’d ruin his reproductive system, the same way Sougo’s was damaged, but all she’d gotten in response to her concern was a pained smile. That had been over three years ago; when she asked him about it again, after they’d found out about Sougo’s condition, he’d told her that it didn’t matter. “I don’t have any intention of having kids, anyway,” he’d said nonchalantly, though she knew him well enough to see the well-concealed regret reflected in his eyes. “It’s not possible for me.” 

She didn’t know if he’d meant that he wasn’t able to get pregnant because he was in a relationship with a beta, or because it physically wasn’t. She could ask Otoharu; he probably knew. But considering Banri hadn’t told her of his own accord, she assumed it was a private matter, and there was a good reason why he was keeping it a secret. Even if Otoharu could give her a good explanation, she didn’t quite want to impinge on Banri’s privacy like that. 

For the time being, she’d take whatever help she could get from him. They would only continue to get busier from here on out. “Yes! We’ve got important work like the Zero Arena reopening concert ahead of us after all!” 

Otoharu looked between the two of them, an extremely pleased smile on his face. Kinako was seated in his lap, as she usually was, contentedly snoozing away. “I’d like to release a new song for MEZZO using this momentum,” he said. 

Tsumugi's eyes widened a fraction, as if she hadn’t expected that from her father. “I think it’d be great if MEZZO got a new song!” she exclaimed in agreement. “The fans have been asking for a new single for a long time now! It’s been nearly a year since they released Miss You..., hasn’t it?” 

Banri gave an affirmative nod. “In regards to that, there’s been some talk about using the new song as the theme song for a drama starring the two of them.” 

“MEZZO’s drama debut!” this time it was Otoharu’s turn to be surprised. Neither Banri nor Tsumugi had informed him of such an opportunity. “How amazing!” 

“Indeed...” Banri agreed, lips pursed as he thought of how to phrase his next sentence. “But that offer might just disappear...” 

“What!? I heard that the script is based off the two of them and is currently in the works, but they’re having difficulties with the casting?” Tsumugi questioned incredulously. It made no sense for the production team not to cast both Tamaki and Sougo, when the script was already being written. “Could it be an issue with the sponsors...?” 

Banri’s grimace told her otherwise. “No, the issue isn’t with Sougo-kun,” he clarified. “This time it’s Tamaki-kun. The director finds working with actors difficult, so there shouldn’t be any problems with leaving newcomers to him, and he’s a really big name in the industry, but... He’s very strict about rules and manners. And it seems that the director ended up hearing an exaggerated version of the trouble that happened at the emotional reunion from last year.” 

“Just what did he hear...?” 

“That Tamaki-kun was in a terrible mood, went on a rampage in the studio, and ended up sending a staff member to the hospital.” 

"Sent someone to the hospital...” Tsumugi mumbled in mild disbelief. She knew that news tended to be exaggerated, but this was ridiculous. “He properly apologized to them, and both the staff members and Mister Shimooka-san forgave him for it, though!” 

“Things do get blown out of proportion in this industry, so...” Banri shrugged helplessly. “It seems that there are many others who have a similar misconception, though Sougo-kun has been very good at clearing that up during their schedules. I’ve tried several times to clarify with the director, but he told me that if it’s just Sougo-kun, it’s fine. What should we do, Tsumugi-san?” 

Tsumugi looked to Otoharu for advice, but he just looked back at her expectantly. “...if we have Sougo-san appear in the drama, then they indeed might use MEZZO’s new song as the theme song. However, if we do so, then we will never get the chance to clear up misunderstandings about Tamaki-san. How about we continue to negotiate using the two of them, until the very end?” 

Banri smiled approvingly, as did Otoharu. “Understood. In that case, I need to get better at stir-frying minced chicken.” 

“Minced chicken...?” 

“The director likes minced chicken bento,” Banri explained. Tsumugi didn’t question how the omega knew this information. Banri’s connections in the industry were, at the best of times, surprising. Other times, it was downright scary. “If I made some and brought it to him, I figured it’d create a pretty nice atmosphere for negotiations.” 

“Especially since Banri-kun’s minced chicken is very delicious,” Otoharu chimed in. 

Banri flushed slightly at the praise. “Thank you very much.” 

“You think everything Banri-san makes is delicious,” Tsumugi chuckled exasperatedly, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. She was glad that all was good and well between Otoharu and Banri, but sometimes it felt weird to see their interactions with each other. 

Their relationship was, for the most part, a secret from others in the company, the members of IDOLiSH7 included. It was only Tsumugi who got to witness couple-like moments between them, and rarely ever in the office. 

“We don’t know when we’re releasing the song, but let’s have the two of them listen to it,” Otoharu suggested. “We need Tamaki-kun to become more self-aware in order to clear up the misunderstandings surrounding him. We also need Sougo-kun, who is the closest to him, to become more self-aware.” 

“Self-awareness, huh...” Tsumugi trailed off, knowing fully well what Otoharu was referring to. Sougo couldn’t possibly baby Tamaki forever, even as much as he wanted to protect the alpha from the evils of the working world. Tamaki was already 18; he had to start being responsible for himself. 

“Their voices are very compatible. I’m sure they’ll be able to draw out each other's charms and bring them to the foreground,” the President added. “The name of the song is Koi no Kakera. It’s a song that’ll give MEZZO a fresh start, a new life. I’m sure it’ll be the spark for the two’s growth.” 

 

--- 

 

On the last day of his heat, Sougo woke up to knocking on his door. 

A quick glance at the clock informed him that it was barely past six in the morning, and he’d only fallen asleep a little over three hours ago. He pushed himself up into a sitting position, wincing at the ache in his lower half, and called out, “Who is it?” 

“It’s Iori.” 

Sougo raised a brow, wondering why the younger omega was looking for him this early in the morning. If his memory served him right, MEZZO didn’t have any schedules for the day, and neither did IDOLiSH7 as a group. In fact, even Tamaki didn’t have much work today; a photoshoot in the late morning and he would be done for the day. 

When he stood up, his stomach pulsed with need, although it was faint enough to ignore. Sougo was rather certain that he looked like a mess, considering how he’d woken up in the middle of the night to a wave of heat and hadn’t showered after. But he couldn’t exactly keep Iori waiting at the door while he went to shower, so he opened the door with a resigned sigh. “Good morning, Iori-kun. What is it?” 

“I’m sorry for waking you up this early,” Iori apologised, and Sougo noted how tired he looked. It was difficult enough to take over the position of centre without also having to cover for Sougo’s absence. Whenever any of them were in heat or rut, the others had to take on their schedules for whatever regular programmes they were on. He imagined it hadn’t been an easy week for Iori at all. “I was supposed to inform you that the Manager wanted to see you in the office later on.” 

“Did she say what for?” 

“A new song for MEZZO, it seems.” 

Sougo blinked in surprise. “That’s... sudden.” 

Iori shrugged, muffling a yawn behind his hand. “I’m just here to pass the message. If you’ll excuse me.” 

“Are you heading out for a schedule already?” Sougo asked, just as Iori turned to leave. Unlike Iori, Sougo wasn’t familiar with everyone’s schedules – only his own and Tamaki’s. It wasn’t so much because he was biased and only bothered to remember his and his boyfriend’s schedules, but more because he was too busy dealing with MEZZO’s schedules to remember everyone else’s. 

Sometimes Sougo thought that it’d be nice for MEZZO to have their own manager, balance out the workload with Tsumugi so that Sougo could focus more on improving his singing and dancing. But he had been the one who’d volunteered to handle MEZZO’s activities, even if it meant that he didn’t have much time for himself. He couldn’t just back out now. 

Iori’s answering sigh was nearly inaudible, had the corridors not been so silent. “I have an appearance on a morning programme,” he replied with a tight smile. Before Sougo could even open his mouth and offer words of encouragement, Iori continued, “It’s fine. I’m tired, yes, but Nanase-san's health has been much more stable lately. I can hold on for a few more weeks.” 

“I’m glad to hear that. Thanks for taking the trouble to come here, Iori-kun.” 

“No problem,” Iori assured, once more turning to leave. “I’ll be going then.” 

“Good luck at work,” Sougo called out, smiling and waving to Iori as the younger left. 

He waited until Iori was out of sight before going back into his room, closing the door behind him and locking it. It'd been easy enough to ignore the building heat in the pit of his stomach while talking to Iori, but now that he was alone again, it was becoming increasingly difficult not to pay attention to the aching need to be filled. 

Annoyingly enough, he could already feel himself leaking slick, just a little, and Sougo pulled his pants down with a soft groan. He briefly contemplated not using a dildo this time, but something told him that his fingers alone would feel sorely lacking. 

Eventually he reached for the dildo that was still lying on the bed, still coated in remnants of the previous night’s use. He pushed it into his entrance slowly, biting back a moan when it slipped in with ease. He'd half-expected it to be a little more difficult to insert the dildo, considering that it was already the last day of his heat, but that didn’t appear to be the case at all. 

He built up a rhythm quickly, by now familiar with the fastest method to relief himself of the heated desire. Sougo rarely ever had to touch his front during his heats; he relied only on pleasing himself through his ass, even if a dildo still wasn’t quite enough. He wasn’t about to ask Tamaki to help him through his heats yet. Just like Iori, Sougo didn’t feel ready for that leap of faith. 

That, and he and Tamaki were almost always arguing about one thing or the other. He didn’t know if it would be possible for him to just forget about any existing arguments simply because he was in heat. If he did indeed manage to forget during the active stages of his heat, he would likely still remember it in the moments when his heat was sated. 

The thought of putting himself in such an awkward position didn’t seem appealing in the least. Sougo didn’t want to end up arguing in between bouts of heat, nor did he want to be constantly reminded of whatever it was that they were arguing about during his heat. He had faith that they’d work out their differences eventually, and then he could bring up the topic of spending heats and ruts together. 

After Sougo climaxed for the nth time that week, he pushed himself off the bed, slowly making his way to the bathroom to get himself cleaned up. He was still tired, and he still wanted to sleep, but he figured it’d be much more comfortable to sleep if he wasn’t sticky and gross. Granted, the sheets were still soiled with the evidence of his heat, but it was easy enough to grab a few clean blankets and lay them over the dirtied sheets. 

The warm water worked wonders to ease his muscles, washing away whatever sweat and grime was on his skin. He genuinely hoped that that had been the last round of heat, because all he wanted to do was take a nap before heading down to the office. Tamaki would likely go with Tsumugi, which meant that Sougo would have to go alone. It wasn’t too far a walk, but he was tired and the mere thought of walking for fifteen minutes made his muscles hurt. 

Sighing softly to himself, Sougo rinsed the soap off his body. He could always take a cab, but it didn’t make sense to do so. “Or I could ask Manager to pick me up, but she’ll be with Tamaki-kun,” the omega muttered. “Maybe Banri-san...” 

When Sougo returned from the bathroom, it was barely half past seven. His eyelids were heavy from the lack of sleep, and he didn’t bother to properly blow-dry his hair. He settled on towelling it as dry as he could before walking over to the dresser and pulling out a number of blankets. 

It was easy to cover enough space for him to lie down on, because he wasn’t as lanky as Tamaki or Nagi were, with an extra blanket to cover himself with. Sougo also grabbed one of Tamaki’s hoodies, the grey one that the alpha liked to wear, and hugged it to himself. Tamaki’s scent was still strong, despite having been in the vicinity of Sougo’s heat pheromones for the past week, and the omega found himself smiling into the fabric. 

He hadn’t expected Tamaki to begin loaning this particular hoodie to him, because he wore it every other week, but perhaps it’d been precisely because it was so often worn that Tamaki had decided to lend it to Sougo during his heats. “You’ll need things with my scent on them, won’t you?” Tamaki had first asked a few months back. “Then take this.” 

Tamaki-kun and his thoughtfulness, Sougo thought in exasperated fondness. In times like this, it was hard to be angry at his boyfriend for anything. He knew Tamaki never meant any harm with his brute honesty; he was just bad at dealing with people sometimes. 

With another sigh, Sougo tried his best to stop his mind from wandering unnecessarily. He desperately needed to get more sleep, or he might fall asleep during their meeting regarding the new song. Tamaki definitely wouldn’t be pleased if he saw that Sougo was sleep-deprived, never mind that it was perfectly normal after a week of being in heat. I just hope he isn’t still mad at me. 

 

--- 

 

Banri raised a brow as his phone screen lit up, Sougo’s contact showing up a moment later. He picked it up, wondering what the younger needed from him. “Hello? Sougo-kun, what is it?” 

“Sorry to disturb you at work, Banri-san,” was the first thing Sougo said, and Banri chuckled in mild amusement. Most people at least said a simple hello before apologising. “I was actually wondering if you could drive me to the office. I heard from Iori-kun that Manager wants to speak to me and Tamaki-kun regarding our new song?” 

Ah. “I don’t mind, but I think Tsumugi-san should already be on her way back with Tamaki-kun. I can give her a call if you’d like?” he suggested instead. He could guess why Sougo didn’t want to call Tsumugi, and it wasn’t as if he really minded going over to the dorm to pick Sougo up, but he didn’t see a need for Sougo to avoid Tamaki. He highly doubted that Tamaki would mind being with Sougo even if there were remnants of his heat pheromones; they still had to discuss the new song in each other’s presence regardless. 

It was unlikely that Sougo’s fading heat pheromones would affect Tamaki too greatly, since they had spent time together after Sougo’s heats, although usually later in the evening. But Banri couldn’t say for sure how a fated pair would react to each other. The only alpha he’d ever been with hadn’t been his fated alpha. 

Sougo paused, and Banri could almost visualise the way his brows were furrowed in thought. “...okay.” 

“I’ll get her to send you a text when she’s nearing the dorm, then. I'll see you in the office later!” 

When Banri ended the call, Sougo stared at his phone in disappointment. He'd been hoping for Banri to give him a bit of buffer before he had to see Tamaki again, but evidently, he’d been hoping for too much. 

It wasn’t so much that he was trying to avoid Tamaki, but he knew full well that he still smelt like heat pheromones. He'd asked Nagi barely forty minutes ago, before the blond had left for his photoshoot for Clara Lowell’s new clothing line. If Nagi could smell him, then Tamaki definitely could. Sougo would rather not subject Tamaki to unnecessary temptation. 

But it was too late to tell Banri no, and Sougo sighed in resignation. It can’t be too bad, can it? he thought to himself worriedly. Surely Tamaki-kun wouldn’t do anything while we’re in the car with Manager, and it’s only a five-minute drive. 

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Sougo went to his mirror, looking himself over and making sure that he was presentable. He didn’t want to turn up in front of his boyfriend, for the first time in a week, with an unkempt appearance. Tamaki probably wouldn’t mind, though, and they were likely only going to the office to have a discussion with Tsumugi. 

Still, Sougo had been brought up with the mindset that he had to groom himself in a manner that was befitting of an Ousaka, regardless of whom it was he was meeting with. “You can make ten, twenty, a hundred good impressions; one bad impression will undo all of your previous efforts,” his father had once told him. Even now, that very mindset was drilled into him. 

Tamaki often complained that Sougo wore too many collared shirts, that he should try buying and wearing t-shirts once in a while. But Sougo wasn’t used to casual wear, and he didn’t think he would really wear t-shirts all that often anyway. 

That hadn’t deterred Tamaki from buying him a purple t-shirt as a Valentine’s gift, one with a row of small butterflies on the hem. “It matches your eyes,” had been Tamaki’s explanation. It'd been an odd gift to receive for Valentine’s, but Sougo hadn’t complained; nor had he worn the shirt yet, much to Tamaki’s dismay. 

He stopped sifting through his wardrobe when he caught sight of that very t-shirt, eyes lingering on it for a long moment before pulling it out. It took many more minutes for him to decide that maybe he would wear it for the first time, quickly changing into it and checking his phone for messages. 

When he saw two missed calls from Tamaki, his phone having been on silent mode, his eyes widened. He immediately called Tamaki back, frowning when his call was rejected. “What on earth...” Sougo muttered. 

His nose twitched when he caught the familiar spicy scent that was his alpha, and Sougo peeked out of the corridor in time to see Tamaki entering the dorm. He couldn’t help the small leap of his heart when he caught sight of his boyfriend, his lips involuntarily tugging up at the corners when Tamaki waved lazily without looking at him. “I tried to call you back,” Sougo said as a greeting, not oblivious to the relief reflected in Tamaki’s scent and expression. 

“I was wondering why you didn’t pick up. Thought something happened, or for some reason your heat hadn’t ended yet,” Tamaki grumbled. The alpha pulled his shoes off, properly looking at Sougo for the first time in a week and staring at him. “Is that the shirt I bought?” 

With a small, somewhat shy smile, Sougo nodded. “Since we’re only going to the office to talk with Manager, I figured it’d be okay to wear this out today. Is it no good?” 

“It’s nice,” Tamaki assured. Sougo hoped he wasn’t imagining the pleased look on the alpha’s face. “How was your heat? Did borrowing my clothes help?” 

Sougo nodded again, still wearing a small smile on his face. “Of course it did. I mean, heats are never good, but it was more bearable. Thank you.” 

“That’s good. I’m going to change into something more comfortable, then we can head out.” 

Humming his acknowledgement, Sougo went back into his room to wait for Tamaki. 

As expected, the alpha didn’t take very long, sticking his head into Sougo’s room barely a minute later and asking, “Souchan, you ready? Manager’s probably tired of waiting for us.” 

“I don’t have to bring much, do I?” Sougo asked as he stood up, following Tamaki out of the dorm when he received a shake of the head in response. They quickly climbed into the car, and Sougo apologised for making Tsumugi wait for them. 

The beta simply offered him a reassuring smile. “I don’t mind, Sougo-san. Are you feeling alright?” 

“I’m fine. If Iori-kun could complete an entire schedule after his heat, I can handle discussing a new song for an hour or two.” 

“You can’t compare yourself to Iorin,” Tamaki argued with a frown. “He’s a workaholic.” 

“So am I,” Sougo reminded, chuckling when Tamaki rolled his eyes in exasperation. He was glad that Tamaki didn’t seem to still be upset by their argument the night before Sougo’s heat. As much as possible, Sougo didn’t want to bring it up, for fear that it would put Tamaki in a bad mood. 

That, and Tamaki didn’t seem particularly affected by any remaining heat pheromones. Maybe he was just pretending, but that didn’t matter. After all, his main concern had been if Tamaki would react the way Riku had reacted the morning after Music Festa. 

“Okay, no arguing in my vehicle,” Tsumugi declared, turning into the office’s carpark and cutting the engine. “Out we go! I’ll head to the President’s office to grab the demo CD, so please wait in the meeting room for a short while.” 

“Okay.” 

“Understood.” 

 

--- 

 

They listened to the demo once, and then ran through the first verse a few times for Tsumugi to get a rough feel of how the song would turn out. 

When they were done singing, the manager was looking at them in what could only be described as amazement. “As expected of Sougo-san and Tamaki-san! Your voices are truly compatible! They’re a perfect match!” the beta exclaimed delightedly. 

“I see...” the couple said in unison. 

“N-neither of you seem to be very satisfied...” Tsumugi said, looking between the couple nervously. 

“But it’s quite rare that we’re listening to our new song despite the release date being up in the air,” the omega explained. Tsumugi had told them that it’d likely be used as the theme song of a drama starring both of them, and they had heard about such an offer. But she’d also brought up the likelihood of the director choosing not to use Tamaki in the drama because of the incident a few months back. 

The very mention of his father had been enough to turn Tamaki’s mood sour, leading to the somewhat tense atmosphere in the meeting room at the moment. Sougo didn’t blame Tamaki for getting upset at the mention of his father, though it’d be better if he didn’t make it so obvious. 

“Are we going to sing this live or on TV?” 

“You’ll sing it when it’s the best time to!” Tsumugi replied, wincing when Tamaki scowled. Tamaki wasn’t a big fan of anything vague – although he seemed perfectly fine with being the one to give vague replies. Sometimes Sougo thought it was a little hypocritical, but he supposed some things couldn’t be helped. “The President said that this song will give MEZZO" a chance to start anew and be reborn.” 

Sougo glanced at Tamaki, wondering what exactly his boyfriend felt about the new song. “Can we, though...” he mumbled unsurely. Koi no Kakera had a completely different vibe from Miss You..., an energetic song talking about newfound love. Sougo felt that it reflected them in a way, although he and Tamaki were hardly ever that honest with each other, and their relationship was still rocky at best. 

Sougo could hope that Tamaki felt as strongly about him as the song depicted, because he certainly did feel that way about Tamaki. Maybe Sougo didn’t voice it aloud, ever, but Tamaki had somehow become an existence in his life that he probably couldn’t live without the alpha. Just when did he become so dear to me, I wonder, Sougo couldn’t help asking himself. 

“I mean, this is pretty much just how we are...” Tamaki pointed out. Arguing with each other so regularly probably wasn’t ideal, but that was just how their relationship worked. Tamaki knew Sougo didn’t like it very much, and he did try to keep his temper in check, but certain things were harder to ignore than others. That didn’t mean he didn’t care about Sougo, didn’t mean Sougo wasn’t important to him. 

“I’m sure you two will get along even better! How about hanging out together on your days off?” 

“Just looking at Souchan’s face makes it not feel like a break anymore,” Tamaki said, as brutally honest as ever. He meant no offense, simply that he saw Sougo too often at work to not think about work at all when they were together. 

“Seeing Tamaki-kun’s face just dissipates any feeling that it’s a break,” Sougo agreed. He didn’t like to admit it, but he had a tendency to bring up MEZZO’s schedules and whatnot when he had alone time with Tamaki. It was fine if they just did their own thing in the same room as each other, but the moment Sougo opened his mouth to talk, it would be about work. It was frustrating that Sougo couldn’t think of much else to discuss, but he didn’t want to bring up the topic of Aya or school in their off time. 

“But we work together pretty well,” they said in unison. 

“And, of course, we’re together, so it’s not like we don’t get along at all,” Tamaki added. 

“What calm, yet dry relations...” Tsumugi muttered. She supposed she could see where they were coming from; apart from seeing each other during MEZZO’s schedules, they also had to see each other during IDOLiSH7’s group schedules. The two of them didn’t have as many individual schedules compared to the other members because of their activities as MEZZO, so they spent nearly every day together. 

She also knew that the couple didn’t go on dates, because they’d much rather use their off days to relax and rest in the dorm. That couldn’t be a very good thing for a couple who’d been together for less than a year. “I’ll leave the two of you to practice all you want for another hour, since you’re already here. If you’ll excuse me!” 

“Wha-” Tamaki cut himself off as Tsumugi darted out of the room, leaving him and Sougo alone. 

“Tamaki-kun, don’t say that,” Sougo chided. 

“But your heat just ended this morning. Aren't you tired?” 

“...were you worried about that?” 

“Of course,” Tamaki huffed. “I’m not the best alpha, but I still know when to take care of my omega.” 

“Then why’d you say that looking at my face makes you feel like you’re not on break?” Sougo asked. 

If he had to be completely honest with himself, it had stung a little when Tamaki’d said that. He understood where the younger was coming from, because he felt the same way. That didn’t mean that Tamaki had phrased his sentence very nicely, although Sougo supposed he should’ve been used to this by now. 

Tamaki stared at Sougo. “It’s true, isn’t it?” 

“I mean, yeah...” Sougo agreed reluctantly. He briefly wondered if he would sound overly sensitive if he voiced his thoughts. “It’s just, hearing you put it that way didn’t feel very good.” 

“Sorry,” Tamaki apologised immediately. “You know I’m not good with words.” 

With a soft chuckle, Sougo nodded in agreement. “I know. Anyway, let’s keep on trying to sing the new song for just a little longer.” 

“...Souchan, sometimes you talk or apologise to people by yourself, when we’re working,” Tamaki said abruptly. Sougo almost couldn’t catch the change of topic. “Is it because of me? Is it because I say something wrong during recordings? Or is it because of the incident with Mister Shimooka?” 

Sougo hesitated for a moment. He didn’t want to lie, and he wasn’t good at lying. He was certain that Tamaki could see through him immediately as he replied, “Not at all.” 

“Then why? If something happened, it’s better if you tell me too,” Tamaki pressed on. “I know you’re hiding something, trying to handle everything by yourself and make things easier for me, but I’m an adult now. I can try to share some of the workload with you. And I won’t lose my temper at work.” 

“I do tell you what I want you to fix nowadays,” Sougo assured. It wasn’t as if Tamaki could easily change the impression that others had of him. “Like earlier on. Don't worry about anything else, alright?” 

Tamaki sighed, sounding somewhat frustrated. “I don’t like that about you, Souchan.” 

Sougo had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to respond to that. On one hand, he was glad that Tamaki was becoming more mature. On the other hand, Sougo had had the intention of hiding his actions from Tamaki from the start. His boyfriend didn’t need to be reminded of the incident with his father every single time they had a schedule. So, instead, he said, “Now, shall we practice?” 

“...okay.” 

Chapter Text

“Souchan,” Tamaki called, uncapping and holding out the bottle of water he’d just bought. 

Sougo glanced up, smiling gratefully as he took the water from Tamaki. “Thanks, Tamaki-kun. Come sit here,” Sougo said, patting the empty space on the floor next to him. 

They'd sang  Koi no  Kakera  over and over, for about forty minutes or so, until Sougo had started to clear his throat in visible discomfort. His heat had just ended a few hours ago, and it was normal for his throat to be tired afterwards. It was usually manageable, but singing without properly warming up had probably not been the smartest decision. 

Tamaki had stopped singing once he noticed Sougo’s discomfort, telling Sougo to sit down and wait for him before going out of the practice room, leaving the omega rather confused. Of course, everything had become self-explanatory once Tamaki had returned. 

It was a small gesture, nothing extraordinary, but Sougo was touched nonetheless. It showed just how much Tamaki had matured since the two of them had first met, in the very same room, over a year ago. It was almost strange to think that, just about a year ago, Tamaki had begged him to join Yaotome Productions to find Aya. The Tamaki now would never even entertain that thought. 

When Riku had been hospitalised overnight, Tamaki had also been the one who’d voluntarily cleaned up the dorm with Nagi. There were still things that Tamaki hated doing, and things that he wouldn’t do unless someone asked him to, but that was fine by Sougo. It would be too much to expect Tamaki to change overnight, and they had more than enough time for the alpha to mature at his own pace. 

Tamaki plopped down on the floor beside his boyfriend, looking at him as he downed the water. It was only a few seconds later that Sougo met his gaze, raising a brow curiously. “You didn’t buy anything for yourself?” he asked, frowning disapprovingly when the alpha shook his head no. “You have to take care of your own health too, you know. Drink some of mine then.” 

“It’s fine,” Tamaki said, pushing the proffered bottle back towards Sougo. “I’m not really thirsty.” 

“If you only drink water when you feel thirsty, it means your body is already feeling dehydrated,” Sougo told him, giving Tamaki the most unimpressed look he was able to muster. He shoved the bottle into Tamaki’s hand. “Just drink some of it. We’ll be heading back home after this anyway, won’t we?” 

The alpha pursed his lips, eventually relenting and taking a few sips of water. “I was actually thinking if we could talk for a bit, since we’re alone here,” Tamaki said. “But if you’re tired, we can just head back and talk another day.” 

“What about?” 

“The whole adlib thing.” 

Sougo stared at his boyfriend, wondering why Tamaki was suddenly bringing this issue up now. He'd been trying to avoid it as much as he could, because he hadn’t been sure if Tamaki would get annoyed, but it seemed he’d been worrying for nothing.  He really  has  become mature, hasn’t he,  Sougo mused, half proud and half wistful. It would’ve been nice if he could protect Tamaki from the harsh realities of the world for a little while longer. “Okay. Let's talk about it,” Sougo replied. 

“Rikkun talked to me about it, that night,” the alpha started, only continuing when Sougo urged him to go on. “I get that you’re worried about the hosts’ impression of me, so I’ll try harder to stick to the script and choreography. I can’t promise that I’ll definitely be able to do it, but I’ll try. I’ll also try not to get angry when you nag at me about it a little.” 

“That’ll be nice,” Sougo agreed with a small smile. He thought of what Iori had told him a week ago – to tell Tamaki that having too many adlibs was hard on him. While Tamaki  did  seem to already be more understanding about the issue, Sougo supposed it couldn’t hurt to push a tad bit further. “It’s actually a little hard for me to keep up when you put in too many adlibs, and stray too far from the centre of the stage. I know you’ve been cutting down on the adlibs already, but just a little more would be good.” 

“You could’ve told me that earlier,” Tamaki sighed. “There’s no helping it then. Can I at least do about three adlibs per performance?” 

“That’s fine by me,” Sougo assured, chuckling when Tamaki pumped his fist victoriously. “Shall we get going then? It'll be good if you can shower before the others get back, and maybe we could order in some food so that Mitsuki-san doesn’t have to cook tonight.” 

Tamaki nodded, getting up and offering a hand to Sougo. The omega took it gratefully, letting Tamaki pull him up into a standing position before following the alpha out of the practice room. “Should we stroll back?” Sougo suggested. It wasn’t too late yet, barely five in the evening, and he was sure that Banri and Tsumugi were busy with work. He didn’t want to have to trouble them to drive him and Tamaki back. 

“Eh, it was a little cold today though,” Tamaki argued, looking his boyfriend over. “I don’t really mind, but you didn’t bring a jacket or shawl with you, right? What if you get sick?” 

The omega blinked, belatedly remembering that he was wearing only a t-shirt. “I should be fine?” 

With a roll of his eyes, Tamaki led Sougo towards the office. “Let’s see if we can borrow something from Banchan. We can use his scent to mask yours, too.” 

 

--- 

 

After borrowing one of Banri’s spare blazers, bless the man for keeping extras in the office, the couple began to make their way back to the dorm. 

It was only when Sougo felt his stomach grumble that he realised he hadn’t eaten much at all for the entire day. He'd woken up from his nap, before which he’d forgotten to set an alarm, called Banri, rummaged around for a suitable shirt to wear, and then all of a sudden Tamaki had returned to the dorm. It wasn’t as if he’d been particularly hungry, either, although the same couldn’t be said for now. 

His stomach must’ve had been louder than he realised, because Tamaki turned to look at him with a raised brow. “Did you not eat for the entire day, Souchan?” he asked, sighing when he received a sheepish smile in response. “ Souchan .”  

“What?” the omega asked indignantly. “I didn’t have time!” 

“You could’ve woken up earlier.” 

“I... forgot to set an alarm?” 

“And here I thought  you  were the responsible one,” Tamaki shook his head disapprovingly. “Why didn’t you tell me or Manager on the way over? We could’ve stopped by a convenience store at least.” 

“I really didn’t feel hungry, though,” Sougo pouted, and Tamaki felt his annoyance vanish. 

“It should be illegal to look like that,” Tamaki mumbled under his breath. He'd never thought that he’d associate Sougo with the word  cute , but here he was. 

“What was that?” 

“Nothing,” Tamaki replied easily, grinning when Sougo continued to pout. He could see why Iori liked to tease Riku every now and then. It was too satisfying, being able to elicit such reactions from his partner. “It really wasn’t important.” 

“Fine, I believe you. Anyway, why don’t you think of what you want to order?” 

“You decide,” Tamaki told Sougo, already unlocking his phone and going to his food delivery app. “They have all sorts of options for you to choose from. I'll even pay for your portion today, but tell the others to pay on their own.” 

“How sweet of you,” Sougo said, touched, taking Tamaki’s phone and looking through the options. 

They walked in silence for the next few minutes, Tamaki slowing his pace down to match Sougo, only speaking when the alpha pointed out a crack or rock in the path. They were both vaguely aware that there were people following them from a few meters behind them, and a couple on the other side of the street, but it was nothing new to them, so they paid them no heed. 

It was only when someone called out “MEZZO?!” that they stopped in their tracks, looking around to locate the source of the voice. It came from a schoolgirl who’d been walking towards them, and at the same time the couple looked at her, her friend elbowed her harshly in the side. 

Ayumi-chan , ” they heard her friend hiss, loud enough that they could hear her even from a distance. “It isn’t nice to disturb them during their off time. They need to rest, too.” 

“What!” the girl known as Ayumi asked indignantly. She glanced up, eyes widening as she met Tamaki’s gaze. “Oh my god, Tamaki-san's looking at me! H-hello!” 

Sougo opened his mouth to greet her, only for Tamaki to shift so that he was standing slightly in front of the omega. It took a moment for Sougo to realise that,  ah, she’s an alpha.  Suddenly, the protective stance that Tamaki had taken made sense. After all, it hadn’t even been twelve hours since Sougo’s heat had ended. “Don’t be rude,” Sougo said in a low voice. “She isn’t going to do anything to me.” 

Tamaki didn’t reply, simply looked at Ayumi and asked, “Is there anything you need from us?” 

“No, there isn’t!” her friend was quick to reply, earning herself a dirty look from Ayumi. “Let’s just go.” 

Her friend then proceeded to pull her by the elbow down the street, bowing politely to Tamaki and Sougo when she passed by them. “We’re sorry for disturbing you. Please continue to do your best.” 

“Thanks,” Tamaki replied, moving as the two girls walked past them and ensuring that he was always standing between them and Sougo. Ayumi likely could smell the scent of an omega on Sougo, although he wasn’t sure if she’d smell Banri’s scent or Sougo’s. He really hoped it was the former. 

“I’ll definitely support you guys at your lives! I love MEZZO!” 

Tamaki didn’t respond to that, and if Sougo wasn’t so afraid of being found out, he would’ve chided the alpha for not being more courteous with their fans. But he  was  afraid that his secondary gender would be revealed, so he kept quiet, silently thanking Ayumi’s unnamed friend for pulling her away from them. 

Once they were out of earshot, Tamaki turned to the group that’d been watching the interaction between MEZZO and the two girls. “Is there something you guys need, too?” he asked, earning shakes of the head from all of them. “Then stop following us. It's troublesome.” 

They nodded, thankfully not arguing with Tamaki, and scattered in different directions. 

Tamaki didn’t wait for them all to walk off before he nudged Sougo. “Let’s go.” 

“Yeah...” 

“You should continue looking at the menu. The faster we order it, the faster you’ll get to eat.” 

“...is soba okay?” 

“Geh. We might as well order from Yamamura-san if that’s the case.” 

“Fine, I’ll find something else.” 

 

--- 

 

Tamaki glanced at the door when he heard it open, the spoon he was holding onto left hanging in the air in front of Sougo’s mouth. The omega frowned, leaning further forward so that he could eat the scoop of rice before it went cold. “Oh. Yamasan and Mikki.” 

When Yamato took in the scene in front of him, he grimaced. “What is it with you couples and being all lovey-dovey... I already had to witness Nagi’s clinginess for the entire morning,” the beta grumbled. “Sou isn’t disabled; he doesn’t need you to feed him, Tama.” 

From behind him, Mitsuki clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “Don’t take your jealousy out on Tamaki. It's not becoming of a 23-year-old like you. Besides, MEZZO don’t usually do things like this, do they? Did something happen?” 

“Mitsuki-san’s really good at picking up on these things,” Sougo commented with a tight smile. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

Tamaki stared at his boyfriend, sighing when Sougo didn’t respond to Mitsuki. “We ran into some fans on our way back from the office. Which was fine and all, but Souchan wasn’t wearing scent neutraliser today and one of the fans that tried to approach us was an alpha,” Tamaki explained, subconsciously scowling when he recalled their encounter that afternoon. 

It wouldn’t have been much of a problem if Sougo had remembered to put on scent neutralisers, and if he hadn’t just ended his heat that very morning. As things were, Tamaki had been a little reluctant when Tsumugi told him that they’d have to discuss a new song with Sougo in the afternoon. Tamaki hated when Sougo wasn’t able to get enough rest after his heat, because he knew that the omega’s body was still adjusting to having regular heats again. 

It certainly hadn’t helped that Ayumi would have likely come up to them, into their personal space, and it’d be hard for her not to smell the lingering heat pheromones on Sougo. It definitely didn’t help that Sougo was an unmated omega. Their saving grace had been Ayumi’s friend, as well as the fact that Sougo’s heat had already ended. 

Tamaki himself had managed not to react to his boyfriend’s scent, although it admittedly had been a rather difficult thing to do. He'd only been able to do it because Tsumugi had been with them, and then they’d been focused on practicing the new song. If they’d been left alone from the start, Tamaki might have already made a move on Sougo. Not that he would’ve assaulted him, but making out would have been inevitable, and sex would likely have been tempting as well. 

He couldn’t imagine what he would’ve done if Ayumi’s friend hadn’t forcefully pulled her away from them, and instead had let her do as she wanted. He wouldn’t put it past himself to attack her to protect Sougo, even if she meant no harm. The bond between a fated pair, even if unmated, was strong. 

“Did anything happen?” Yamato asked, sounding concerned. “I’m guessing not, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here and having dinner so calmly.” 

Sougo shrugged. “Her friend pulled her away pretty quickly, so nothing really happened. It’s just that the thought of being found out was a little terrifying, especially since Tamaki-kun would’ve moved to defend me and we  both  would’ve been found out,” the omega said. “If people found out that me and Tamaki-kun are a fated pair, it doesn’t matter if we’re mated or not. IDOLiSH7’s image will be tarnished.” 

Mitsuki sighed. “I kind of get why fans can be against idols dating, but it can get really annoying sometimes, huh,” he said. “We’re just normal human beings like them, after all.” 

“And it’s not like we get to choose who our fated pair is,” Tamaki added with a small huff. When Sougo shot him a mildly questioning look, as if he was offended, the alpha pursed his lips. “Not that I don’t like being your fated alpha. It just seems like life would be a lot easier if I wasn’t.” 

“Well, not like you guys can change that,” Yamato cut in. “Just be more careful next time, especially after heats and ruts. Did nobody in the office have scent neutralisers?” 

“Oddly enough, no,” Sougo replied. “Most of them are betas, or mated. Banri-san doesn’t need to use it, but he did promise to stock up the office from now on. I feel kind of bad for troubling him.” 

“I didn’t even realise Souchan wasn’t using scent neutralisers until Banchan pointed it out,” Tamaki told them. “I mean, it makes no difference to me whether he uses it or not. And Manager wouldn’t have been able to tell anyway.” 

“And you didn’t scent him before leaving the office?” Mitsuki asked. 

“It might’ve been worse if people realised that Souchan had my scent on him,” Tamaki pointed out. He  had  contemplated it, but decided that it wouldn’t be any better if people realised that Sougo smelt like him. Tamaki hadn’t worn scent neutralisers to work, either; he rarely ever did. 

With a small sigh and shrug, Yamato sat down opposite the couple. “What’s done is done. All you can do now is to make sure not to make the same mistake. Anyway, enough with the serious talk. You guys ordered gyudon, right?” 

The couple nodded in unison. 

“My treat.” 

“Pay for it yourself.” 

Sougo turned to Tamaki, staring at him for a long moment before cracking into a small smile. “That  was  what we decided on, wasn’t it? Sorry, Yamato-san, Mitsuki-san. It seems you’ll have to pay for your dinner tonight.” 

Yamato snorted, already pulling his wallet out of his pocket. “I’ll pay for the others’ portions.” 

“How generous, Yamato-san,” Mitsuki commented with a grin. “I’ll treat you to beer some time.” 

“I’ll hold you to that. Ah... Tama’s back at it with the feeding.” 

 

--- 

 

Later that night, after they’d showered and Sougo had done his laundry, the omega found himself in the alpha’s bedroom. 

Tamaki had suggested they sleep together tonight, because Sougo was still slightly shaken by the encounter in the afternoon. Sougo's first reaction had been to turn the offer down, because he didn’t want the alpha to go out of his way to make him feel better. It was only after Tamaki reminded Sougo that, if he felt bad or upset, he would feel the same, that Sougo decided to go along with Tamaki’s wishes. That, and Iori had suggested the same thing. 

They'd discussed the incident briefly with everyone once the others had returned, and Iori had given Sougo an extremely sympathetic and understanding smile. Nagi had been seemingly upset that a fan of theirs could act in that manner, because personal space was something that he apparently held in high regard. When the alpha had mentioned that, Mitsuki had sent his boyfriend a blank stare. “Personal space? I don’t think I’ve had that since meeting you.” 

“But you are all my  precious friends ! It's different! I would never go up to my idol if they didn’t seem comfortable with it!” 

“I find that hard to believe, but okay.” 

Riku had been oddly quiet as the rest of them talked, sticking closely to Iori even though they were in the safety of the dorm. Sougo  had  found it slightly odd, but he hadn’t thought much of it. Riku was just as protective of Iori as Tamaki was of him. 

It was only after they’d all finished dinner that Iori had approached Sougo, pulling him aside and seating him down in the privacy of his room. “Are you sure you’re okay, Ousaka-san?” 

“I... suppose,” Sougo had replied unsurely. He didn’t  feel  like he was too affected by the encounter, but Iori hadn’t looked like he really believed him. It’d made Sougo wonder if he was just oblivious to how he really felt, simply because he was so used to being intimidated by alphas since presenting as an omega. 

Iori had pressed his lips into a thin line, looking conflicted, before opening his mouth to speak. “Last year when I went on a date with Nanase-san, our first date, I was... nearly assaulted by a drunk alpha,” Iori said, struggling slightly to keep his tone even. Just the mere memory of that incident was enough to make a shudder run down Iori’s spine. “I mean, Nanase-san made it to me in time, so nothing really happened, but it was still quite a scary experience.” 

When Iori had looked up at Sougo, the elder’s eyes had gone wide in shock. He vaguely remembered Tamaki complaining to him that night about Iori ignoring him, but Sougo hadn’t thought much of it. Iori hadn’t talked about this incident before, not with him at least, so to say that he’d been shocked was an understatement. “Iori-kun...” 

“It’s still scary when I think about it now,” Iori had admitted with a grimace. “While I’m not sure if it’s anything like what I experienced, I don’t imagine what happened today feels very good. And I know your heat just ended this morning so this might not be the best idea, but you should sleep with him tonight. It helped me a lot.” 

“I  was  pretty afraid that she’d find me out,” Sougo had told the younger, wearing a grimace of his own. “Not that I personally mind people knowing about me being an omega, but not many idols are omegas. My father certainly wouldn’t be pleased that my being an omega is public knowledge, and I don’t even want to think about how Tamaki-kun would’ve reacted if Ayumi-san's friend hadn’t pulled her away.” 

“Nanase-san punched the drunk alpha,” Iori had supplied, not at all making Sougo feel better. “He definitely would’ve continued if I didn’t stop him. I’m sure this Ayumi-san didn’t mean any harm, but considering that your heat just ended this morning, it probably would’ve been the same.” 

With a sigh, Sougo had said, “I thought so too. I’m just glad things didn’t come to that.” 

“As am I,” Iori had agreed, standing up and walking to the door. “I’ll be taking my leave now. Please have a good rest tonight.” 

“Thanks for the advice, Iori-kun,” Sougo had said gratefully. “You have a good rest too.” 

It'd been a short while after that that Tamaki had poked his head into Sougo’s room, asking the omega if he wanted to come over to his room instead. He'd considered for a minute, eventually nodding in response to Tamaki’s justification as to why they should sleep together. 

They'd both brushed their teeth together, and Sougo was currently leaning against Tamaki and watching him play games on his phone. It was normal for them to spend time in the same space without actually  doing  anything together, since they usually did their own thing, and it was in fact rare that Sougo was paying attention to what Tamaki was doing. 

He did have materials to prepare for future schedules, but there were still a number of days for him to finish them up. Even if Sougo  was  in the mood to deal with work-related matters, which he absolutely wasn’t, Tamaki likely wouldn’t let him. 

It was getting late, and he was mentally exhausted from the encounter in the afternoon. There was no way that Tamaki would’ve allowed Sougo to work in his current condition – no normal alpha would. They were born with the instinct to take care of omegas, especially their own. 

Tamaki was normally rather nonchalant about everyone, but Sougo had always been the exception, even if the alpha didn’t show it outwardly very often. In fact, even in a normal situation where Sougo was simply physically drained, the omega had little doubt that his boyfriend would force him to rest, although he probably wouldn’t use his alpha voice to compel him to do so. 

Sougo hadn’t paid much attention to Tamaki’s games before, simply because he himself had never really played any video or mobile games as a kid. Life had revolved around lessons and social gatherings with the family’s business partners, which had been boring to say the least, not that the young Sougo could’ve complained about anything. 

Now that he was properly watching Tamaki’s game, the omega realised two things. 

The first was that Tamaki’s games, though Sougo couldn’t at all recognise the game Tamaki was playing now, seemed rather interesting. Sougo didn’t really understand what Tamaki was doing; building towers and killing some weird alien-looking things. He wasn’t even sure if they could be considered creatures. Whatever it was, Tamaki seemed to be rather concentrated on it. 

The next was that Sougo truly didn’t know much about Tamaki. Sure, he knew basic things like his birthday, his favourite food, certain likes and dislikes that he often voiced aloud, but  everyone  in IDOLiSH7 knew those exact same things. There were a small handful of things that only Sougo knew, and certain expressions that Tamaki only ever showed the omega, but Sougo wanted to know more than just those things. 

They'd already been together for over half a year, yet Sougo knew so pathetically  little  about his fated alpha. He could say with certainty that Iori knew much,  much  more about Riku than Sougo knew about Tamaki. That much was obvious, and it made Sougo feel terribly lacking as Tamaki’s fated omega. 

The excuse that  this was just how our relationship works  couldn’t be used forever, not unless they wanted their relationship to stagnate forever.  Sometimes  Sougo  was jealous of how easy it was for Iori and Riku to communicate, even if those communications led to disagreements and arguments. At the very least, it  was  because they said too much that they argued, whereas Sougo and Tamaki usually argued because they both said too little. 

“Hey, Tamaki-kun?” Sougo spoke up, earning a questioning hum from the alpha. “What’s your favourite colour?” 

“Why the sudden question?” Tamaki asked back, not taking his eyes off his game. “Blue. If you want to know the specific shade, it’s in between the colour of my hair and Aya’s hair. That's the colour of my mum’s hair.” 

“I wouldn’t know what Aya-chan's hair looks like, though,” Sougo mumbled, more to himself than to Tamaki. He hesitated, wondering if he should respond to Tamaki’s first question. “I was just thinking that I didn’t know a lot about you...” 

Tamaki shrugged. “You’ll get to meet her for sure. Until then, you can try to visualise what my favourite colour looks like,” he said, exiting his game and turning to look at the omega. “What about you, Souchan? I don’t know your favourite colour, either.” 

“I’ve never really thought about it,” Sougo admitted, managing a sheepish smile when Tamaki stared at him blankly. “If I had to choose a colour, though, I guess... yellow?” 

“Not blue?” Tamaki teased. 

Sougo felt his cheeks heat up, and he looked down at the King Pudding plush in his lap. “Not blue,” he confirmed with a small smile. “Yellow reminds me of King Pudding-kun over here, which in turn reminds me of you.” 

It was Tamaki’s turn to flush in mild embarrassment, and he averted his gaze as he muttered, “That’s unfair, Souchan...” 

Before Sougo could respond, ask Tamaki what he meant, he found the alpha’s lips over his own. It took only a second for Sougo to relax into the kiss, moaning softly when Tamaki’s tongue prodded against his lips, urging his mouth open before slipping its way in. 

Tamaki was always the one who took the lead whenever they kissed, which admittedly wasn’t very often as of late. This time, though, Sougo pushed back against Tamaki’s tongue, eliciting a surprised noise from the alpha. For a moment, Sougo thought that Tamaki would be against his boldness, but the alpha was quick to relinquish control to him. 

Sougo took his time exploring Tamaki’s mouth for the first time, and he let out a low hum when he felt Tamaki’s hands trailing down his sides. “T-Tamaki-kun,” Sougo gasped, breaking the kiss when Tamaki reached his waistband. “We can’t.” 

“I know,” Tamaki sighed, removing his hands from Sougo’s hips and moving them up to cup his face instead. He used his thumb to wipe a stray strand of saliva away from the corner of Sougo’s lips. “What was  that , anyway? No- don't look so dejected already,  Souchan , what the heck? It was really good,  too  good. Have you been practicing kissing someone else?” 

Whether the redness of Sougo’s face was due to the kissing or embarrassment, Tamaki had no idea. “If you mean imaginary practice with an imaginary Tamaki-kun, then yeah,” Sougo replied, nearly bursting out into laughter when he noticed Tamaki’s look of incredulity. “I literally ended my heat half a day ago, remember? Although I can’t say I really know what came over me. Thank you for letting me do that.” 

“It was... pretty hot,” Tamaki admitted, pouting indignantly when Sougo  did  laugh this time. “What’s with you today, seriously? Not that I’m really complaining. We should do that again sometime.” 

“You’ll let me do it again?” 

“Why wouldn’t I?” Tamaki questioned. “Just because I’m an alpha doesn’t mean I  have  to be the one in control all the time. I enjoyed it, really. This is exactly why you should keep doing new things that you want to try out.” 

“Then I will,” Sougo said with a satisfied grin. He pulled Tamaki down onto the bed with him, making himself comfortable against the alpha’s chest. “Iori-kun was right when he said to spend the night with you. I don’t even feel bad about what happened with Ayumi-san anymore.” 

“That’s good,” Tamaki said approvingly, reaching up to turn the light off. Sougo had already flicked the nightlight on, the way he always did when he slept over in Tamaki’s room. “Is there anything else you want to do?” 

“I want to act in that drama together with you,” the omega replied, “and we’ll make them use our new song for it. Let's work hard in our schedule tomorrow too, okay?” 

“Aya will probably watch the drama if I’m in it, won’t she?” 

“I’m sure she will. That's why we have to do our best.” 

Chapter Text

“Alright, I’m off,” Yamato called out from the doorway, slipping his shoes on and turning to leave. “Also, I don’t need dinner.” 

“Got it!” Mitsuki replied. “Have a safe trip.” 

Yamato nodded, slamming the door as he closed it and causing Mitsuki to flinch. Tamaki stared at the door for a few moments, wondering what Yamato’s issue was. “What’s wrong with that old man... He’s got this superbly displeased aura about him...” Mitsuki muttered. 

“Right?” 

The beta sighed, shaking his head disapprovingly. “We finally got everyone together, despite how busy it’s been lately,” he said. For the first time in what seemed like months, all of them didn’t have work, and yet Yamato had chosen to go out instead of spend time with the group. With another sigh, Mitsuki stood up. “Tamaki, I’ll be watching TV in my room, so if you get hungry just eat what’s in the pot. Make sure to leave some for everyone else, though.” 

“Okay,” the alpha responded, eyes fixed on the game he was playing. 

“Don’t play too many games!” 

“Okay.” 

He heard Mitsuki walk away, and the door was opened before it was closed once more. 

It was silent for the next few minutes as Tamaki continued playing his game. Riku was resting in his room, Iori was in his own room working on something, and Sougo had unfortunately been roped into a MagiKona marathon session with Nagi. Tamaki had tried to get him out of it, but Sougo still hadn’t been able to say no to the blond alpha. 

Tamaki didn’t really mind being left to eat dinner alone. At least then he could play games while eating without being nagged at by someone. It was usually Sougo or Mitsuki doing the nagging, though Iori tended to chime in as well. 

The alpha was snapped out of his thoughts when his screen flashed with the words  game over.  He hadn’t even realised that his character had walked off the edge of a cliff. “Ah. I died again.” 

Before Tamaki could press  play  again, the doorbell rang. “Hm? Is it Yamasan?” Tamaki pondered aloud. It was strange for Yamato to be ringing the doorbell, but he supposed the leader could have forgotten his keys in the dorm. 

He got up, walking to the main door and unlocking it. “Welcome hom-” he cut himself off  as he came face to face with a certain Kujo Tenn. “Oh. It's Tenten,” he said instead, earning himself an extremely displeased scowl from TRIGGER’s centre. 

“Don’t give me such an awful nickname,” Tenn grumbled, holding a paper bag in front of him. “Here, take this. It's a gift. King Pudding.” 

Tamaki’s eyes widened, and he opened the bag right after he took it from Tenn. Just as the elder had said, there were a number of King Puddings inside. “Hell yeah! Is it okay if I eat it all myself!?” 

“Do as you like,” Tenn said dismissively. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, though Tamaki wasn’t paying enough attention to really question why. It was a while later that he finally asked, “Where is Riku’s room?” 

Tamaki raised a brow. He supposed Tenn had to have an ulterior motive, coming to their dorm out of the blue like this and even bringing King Pudding for him as a gift. But Tenn was Riku’s brother, and Tamaki couldn’t smell any malice in his scent. There didn’t seem to be any harm in replying honestly. “Second from the right.” 

“I see,” Tenn said, and without another word, walked right past Tamaki to walk down the corridor. 

Tamaki paid him no further heed, returning to the living area with his newly acquired bag of King Puddings. Seating himself comfortably on the floor, Tamaki poured the contents of the bag onto the table, eyes nearly sparkling at the sight of so many cups of pudding. “Hell yeah! One, two, three... there’s ten of them! If I eat one every hour, there’s enough to last me ten hours!” 

The door clicked open, and Tamaki looked up to see Iori walking towards him. “Yotsuba-san, what are you doing... You’re eating nothing but snacks again!” the omega chided, and Tamaki resisted the urge to sigh. “It’s too much, if you eat all of this.” 

“I got this from someone!” he declared proudly instead. Iori was always going on about how they should be polite to others, so surely he wouldn’t tell him to return them. At least, that was what Tamaki was hoping for. 

Iori gave him a questioning look, obviously not believing the alpha. “From who?” 

“Tenten.” 

“Tenten?” Iori repeated, clearly confused. “Are you taking care of a cat? Animal hair isn’t good for Nanase-san, though,” he muttered under his breath. “We have to find it and return it immediately... By the way, just how big is it?” 

“How big?” Tamaki asked, not having heard Iori’s monologue. “On the small side...?” 

“Oh, is it a kitten?” the omega muttered again, in the same low voice. “What colour?” 

“Whitish, I guess?” 

“A white kitten, how cu-” Iori stopped before he could complete the word, mentally slapping himself for being so selfish. He would love to play with a  kitten, but it was absolutely not okay for them to raise one in the dorm. “No, for Nanase-san's sake, we must find it immediately and deal with the issue.” 

“Huh? Are we looking for a kitten?” 

“You’re the one who said so!” Iori snapped, already filling a saucer with fresh milk. He wasn’t entirely sure if cow milk was okay for kittens to drink, but they had to make do. Surely they’d be able to at least entice it to follow them. And if I’m lucky, I might get to play with it for a bit. “Until then, your pudding will have to wait.” 

That saucer was then shoved into Tamaki’s hands, and the alpha startled, nearly spilling some of it onto the floor. “Ah...!” 

“Instead, hold this saucer full of milk,” Iori instructed. He pointedly ignored the incredulous stare sent his way. “A-anyways, let us hurry and search outside.” 

“Wha... such a hassle...” 

 

--- 

 

“Everybody! Thank you so much for today!”  

Kyaaaaa!”  

Riku sighed at the TV, at the Tenn who was performing on stage. His legs were pulled up to his chest as he sat on his bed, watching the DVD of TRIGGER’s live, the one he’d received from Iori as a gift a few months back. 

They watched it together before, and Riku had considered asking Iori to watch it with him this time as well, but the omega was settling some management matters and Riku hadn’t wanted to disturb him. He didn’t imagine Iori would be all too happy that Riku was watching TRIGGER’s live anyway, because it meant that Riku was brooding over his own inadequacy as a centre. 

And, well, Iori wouldn’t be wrong. Riku did feel that he wasn’t doing well enough, despite how often the others reassured him that it was fine. It'd been almost  a  month  since Iori had taken over the position of the centre, and Riku felt that he was getting too used to the reduced focus on stage. 

While he wasn’t really stressed about having to perform perfectly now, he was stressed over his health condition, always wondering when he would be able to relieve Iori of the centre position. His boyfriend was stubborn enough not to admit that he was exhausted, but Riku could tell it easily enough from his face, as well as his scent. 

But Riku’s condition wasn’t improving as quickly as he’d hoped it would, and it was extremely frustrating not to be able to do anything about it. Watching TRIGGER’s live wasn’t helping at all, and still he was doing it while comparing himself to Tenn the entire time. Tenn, who did everything perfectly and met everyone’s expectations with ease. 

Riku could already imagine how angry Iori would be at him if he knew what he was thinking about. 

“Why are we so different, even though we’re twins?” 

“Thank you! I love you all!”  

Riku laughed bitterly. “That’s nothing but lies... He made such a scary face at me when he was mad...” 

A knock sounded on his door suddenly, and Riku shouted, “I’m watching a video right now so I don’t need dinner yet!” 

It wasn’t Iori, that much was easy for Riku to tell, and it was usually only Iori who would enter his room even after Riku told him not to. But the door opened regardless, much to Riku’s confusion and mild annoyance. “Riku.” 

“I said, I don’t need-” Riku’s eyes widened as his mind processed whose voice he’d heard, head whipping around so quickly he swore he heard his neck crack. True enough, standing in his doorway was none other than Tenn, expression carefully kept blank as he met Riku’s gaze levelly. “Huh!? Tenn-nii!?” 

When Tenn didn’t reply, Riku rubbed at his eyes. “Is this a dream?” 

“It isn’t.” 

“Maybe I fell asleep while watching the video...” 

“You didn’t.” 

Riku blinked, staring at Tenn like he’d grown another head. Sure, the person standing in front of him looked and sounded exactly like Tenn, but it didn’t make sense for Tenn to be in IDOLiSH7’s dorm, much less in Riku’s room. I sure hope Iori doesn’t come out of his room now. “A-are you the real thing...?” Riku asked, still sceptical and wondering if he was hallucinating. 

Tenn didn’t reply immediately, still looking at Riku expressionlessly. It was only seconds later that Tenn nodded, answering Riku with a soft smile. “I am,” the alpha confirmed. “I came to see you, Riku.” 

“Tenn-nii...” 

“Good boy; you’ve been keeping your room clean,” he praised. Riku suddenly felt like he was a kid all over again, tidying his room not because of his health condition, but because he wanted to hear Tenn’s words of praise. “How’s your condition? Have you been going to the doctor’s?” 

Riku nodded, still somewhat in a daze. “Y-yeah...” 

“Are you able to sleep at night?” Tenn continued to ask. It made Riku wonder what exactly his twin had come here for – surely it wasn’t only to ask about his wellbeing. “Now, you have to properly get rest and make sure you stay warm. You know how you get during spring.” 

“Yeah...” 

Tenn’s gaze darted to the TV, where the DVD of TRIGGER’s live was still playing. “Did you watch TRIGGER’s live performance?” 

Riku followed Tenn’s gaze, flushing in embarrassment when he realised how odd it probably was for him to be watching TRIGGER’s live alone in his room. He hoped it didn’t seem too obsessive. “Ah... yeah. I watched it.” 

“You can turn the TV off. I’m right here, after all,” Tenn told him, still wearing the same smile. It was the smile that, when they’d been younger, Tenn would put on whenever he needed to placate Riku to eat certain things or to take his medicine. The redhead hadn’t minded it so much in the past, because it meant that he’d at least get his Tenn-nii's attention. 

Now, though, it felt terribly strange to see Tenn wearing this smile. Riku briefly wondered if Tenn still saw Riku as the young child he’d once been, helpless and sickly and always clamouring for Tenn’s attention. Certainly, Tenn knew that the current Riku could see through his smile, be able to tell that he had a motive of some sort. 

“Will you keep me company for a bit?” 

A year ago, Riku would’ve agreed without hesitation. Back then, all he’d wanted was to have the chance to talk to Tenn, to hear from his mouth the reason why he’d left the Nanase family. Even now, Riku didn’t know the truth, in spite of the fact that Tenn had once promised to tell him. 

Riku still wanted to know why Tenn had left him behind, but he also didn’t want to run the risk of Iori walking into his room. Iori’s dislike of Tenn was common knowledge in the dorm, but that wasn’t Riku’s main concern. What he worried about was that Iori wouldn’t be using scent neutralisers; he hadn’t used them in the dorm for a long time now, and Tenn would be able to tell right away that Iori was an omega. 

A quick sniff of the air told Riku that Iori likely wasn’t in the dorm, and while Riku was curious as to where his boyfriend had gone, he couldn’t say he wasn’t glad for it. Now was as good a time as any to talk to Tenn. “...yes!” 

 

--- 

 

OH... That was time well-spent. I have successfully converted Sougo!” 

Sougo glanced at the blond alpha as they walked to the living area, having finally finished yet another MagiKona marathon. Sougo really respected Mitsuki for being able to rewatch MagiKona over and over again, as and when Nagi was in the mood to do so. He was just glad Tamaki didn’t force his King Pudding obsession onto him. 

“I’ve seen that anime countless times by now, but...” Sougo trailed off, pushing the door open and looking around curiously. They were all off today, yet the living room was completely empty. “Oh? No one’s in the living room.” 

“There’s stew and King Pudding,” Nagi noted. “Are these all Tamaki’s?” 

The omega opened his mouth to reply that yes, they were most definitely Tamaki’s, just as the doorbell rang. Both of them glanced in the general direction of the door, and Sougo moved towards it. “We have guests. I’ll go answer.” 

Nagi belatedly followed behind the omega, just in case it was a fan or stalker. 

Unlocking the door and pulling it open, Sougo found himself standing in front of Yuki and Momo. “Good evening!” Momo greeted brightly, uncaring of the confusion written all over Sougo’s face. “It’s Re:vale!” 

“R-Re:vale!? W-what's the matter!?” 

Yuki stepped into the dorm, and Sougo instinctively took a step back. He wasn’t wary of Yuki, per se, but he was still an alpha infringing on what could be considered IDOLiSH7’s territory. That, and Yuki didn’t seem all that happy at the moment. “Your leader blocked my number, so I am here to personally express my displeasure,” Yuki explained. “Is he in?” 

Momo cut in before Sougo could even formulate a reply. “And I’m here because I’ve got a special mission for Nagi. Ah, there he is! Now we’ll be able to protect the Earth!” 

OH! A Special Mission!” Nagi exclaimed delightedly. He wasn’t oblivious to  Sougo’s  mild discomfort, and he stepped in front of the omega while maintaining the wide grin on his face. First and foremost, he wanted to make sure Yuki’s displeasure  wasn’t escalated. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to go along with their whims for  now. “How exciting!” 

“Nagi-kun, you agreed so fast!” Sougo whispered, though he was sure Re:vale could hear him too. “Um... Yamato-san is currently out...” 

Yuki wasn’t fazed in the least, quickly responding with, “Then shall we wait in your room?” 

Eyes widening, Sougo asked, “What!?” 

He'd been expecting them to say that they’d come back later, or perhaps tell him to call Yamato. For Yuki to suggest waiting in his room so suddenly was unexpected, to say the least. Sougo didn’t even know if he could say no – the only alpha he wanted in his room, honestly, was Tamaki. Even Riku and Nagi didn’t enter his room often, and it wasn’t as if Yuki didn’t know of his and Tamaki’s relationship. I do suppose Yuki-san doesn’t know that we’re a fated pair, though.

Momo glanced into the living area. “Ah! It’s King Pudding!” the beta exclaimed, going over to the table and grabbing a few. Sougo’s mouth opened and closed as he tried to come up with a non-offensive way to say: No, those are Tamaki- kun's. Don’t touch them. “Is it okay if I eat some?” 

“What a wonderful smell,” Yuki chimed in. “Is it stew? I haven’t eaten dinner yet.” 

“Well- um...” You can’t. Those belong to Tamaki- kun.  

“We’re your senpai, aren’t we?” the duo said in unison. 

“G-go ahead,” Sougo ended up saying instead, mentally berating himself for being unable to do something as simple as saying no. Tamaki definitely wouldn’t be happy to know that Sougo had let Re:vale eat his food. “Please enjoy your meal, inside my room...” 

“That won’t do!” Nagi cut in. “Sougo’s room is at the far end of the hallway, and I cannot allow our precious senpai to walk such a distance! We shall go to my room instead!” 

Oh, thank god, Sougo couldn’t help but think. He'd have to thank Nagi later, even if it meant that he might have to sit through another MagiKona marathon. 

“Alright then,” Yuki replied agreeably, “if you insist.” 

“C’mon, let’s go Nagi!” 

Hey! Do we need anything to transform for the Special Mission? Like a wand? Or compact?” 

 

--- 

 

Riku shuffled his feet nervously, wondering what he should say to Tenn. 

For so long, he’d thought out what he would ask Tenn if they had a chance to speak to each other privately. He would ask Tenn why he’d left him, why he’d left their parents and family when they needed him most. He’d also ask why Kujo, of all people. 

But now that he finally did have his chance, the redhead had absolutely no idea how to begin. It wasn’t helping that he had no idea when Iori would return to the dorm,  because the omega would probably check in on Riku when he did. It was dinnertime already. 

In the end, he settled for an awkward smile. “Would you like anything to drink? Have you eaten yet?” 

“I’m fine,” was Tenn’s curt reply. 

“I see... um...” Riku trailed off with a defeated chuckle. “There was a lot of stuff I wanted to talk to you about if we met up, but it all left my mind.” 

Tenn let out a soft laugh of his own, shaking his head in mild disbelief. “Then I’ll talk. Sit down.” 

“Okay!” 

“Riku, is there anyone you like?” 

Riku nearly choked at the suddenness of the question. He knew Tenn always went straight to the point, but he definitely hadn’t expected a question like this. If he hadn’t known any better, he’d have thought that Tenn was trying to get some kind of gossip material that he would use to expose him. “Huh!?” 

Tenn’s answering stare was enough to tell Riku that no, he certainly wasn’t trying to do that. There wouldn’t be anything to gain even if Riku was caught in a scandal with Iori. “N-no...” Riku replied hesitantly. Tenn may be his twin brother, but protecting Iori was his first priority. A little white lie wouldn’t hurt. “There is someone I’m interested in, though...”

“Would you be lonely, if you couldn’t meet up with them very often?” 

I’m lonely enough as it is, even though we’re in adjacent rooms. Iori’s always so busy recently. “I think I’d be really lonely...” 

Tenn nodded. “What if the two of you finally get to meet after a long time, but they didn’t show up as promised?” he asked. 

“I’d be sad, and I think I’d be worried...” Riku frowned, wondering what the point of all this was. “Is there someone you like, Tenn-nii? What kind of person are they? Do they live really far away?” 

Riku wasn’t sure if he was imagining the faint blush on Tenn’s cheeks, even though the alpha’s gaze never wavered. Admittedly, it  was  slightly strange to think of Tenn liking anybody, because he dedicated all his time to his work. Riku did wish Tenn would get into a relationship eventually, though. It was nice to have somebody to rely on and to care for, as well as be loved and cared for. “...are you asking me for love advice right now?” 

“What do you think? Take a guess.” 

“I don’t know...” Riku admitted. “Tenn-nii’s really popular... Um, a celebrity overseas then?” 

Tenn sighed softly, shaking his head. “The fans are my lovers,” he said matter-of-factly. Riku simply looked at him, not at all understanding what Tenn was saying. “I would never do anything that would make the fans sad, or break my promises to them. That much is expected, if you’re an idol.” 

“Promises...?” 

“The concert tickets are. They’re promises to the fans that you’ll definitely be there on that day, and smile for the fans with all your heart,” Tenn continued. “You couldn’t keep that promise. You haven’t, and you won’t be able to from here on out.” 

 

--- 

 

“Re:vale’s new show is so funny! I hope I can meet them sometime soon,” Mitsuki said to no one in particular, walking to the living area to get dinner. 

He was met with the sight of an extremely empty pot, instead of the half-full pot of stew he’d seen just an hour ago. “Ah! The pot is empty! Dammit Tamaki, I told him to leave some for everyone!” the beta grumbled, feeling his stomach let out a grumble of its own. “Man, I’m hungry. What should I eat...” 

The doorbell rang, and Mitsuki looked up in confusion. “Hm? Who is it...?” he pondered aloud. “I’m coming! I’ll open the door in a sec!” 

Unlocking the door and opening it, Mitsuki immediately flinched back. “Wah, Yamato-san! You reek of booze!” he exclaimed. He wasn’t against alcohol, per se, but Yamato wasn’t exactly setting a good example for the younger boys by drinking so much. 

Mitsuki nearly closed the door right after Yamato stepped into the house, but the leader was quick to stop him. “H-hold up!” his words came out slightly slurred, no doubt the effect of the alcohol. “I’ve got someone with me!” 

“What!? You...” Mitsuki sighed exasperatedly. “Just who is it!? We have minors in this house so don’t bring in any weird people...” 

When an extremely drunk Ryuu appeared behind Yamato, Mitsuki found himself at a loss for words. The alpha laughed heartily when he saw Mitsuki’s stunned expression. “Haisai!”  

“Isn’t that Tsunashi Ryuunosuke...! I can’t believe you netted this guy...!” Mitsuki exclaimed, sounding nearly scandalised. He knew Yamato was single and it was probably annoying to be surrounded by couples all the time, but that didn’t mean that it was okay to just get Ryuu drunk and bring him home. 

“You’ve got it all wrong! Just hear me out, will you!” Yamato defended. “We promised to go out drinking some time ago, and I figured I’d do some reconnaissance for Riku’s sake while I was at it! And  then  this guy over here just gulped down glass after glass, and I have no clue what he’s saying...” 

“Yamato, saki guwanaahin! Ai? Mise kawaton na. Uma karaoke yaa naTou, utaindo!”  

Mitsuki stared at Ryuu in what could only be described as bewilderment. He knew Ryuu wasn’t from Tokyo, but he didn’t understand a single word of the Okinawan dialect. “You weren’t kidding. I don’t know what he’s saying at all...” 

“Right!?” 

They'd thought that Ryuu would stop, but the alpha simply continued with, “Mic, remote, mucchiku wa? Ai,  Mitsuki chou naa. Uttoguaariimutoutashi gashii janshi funtuu naa ?  

Mitsuki looked to Yamato for help, not at all knowing how to respond to whatever it was that Ryuu had just said. It all sounded like gibberish that didn’t make sense, even though Mitsuki knew that it was an actual dialect. Yamato laughed awkwardly. “Ah... mensore!”  

Mensore!” Ryuu echoed before laughing once more. 

Yamato looked back at Mitsuki despondently. “This is how it’s been.” 

“I can’t believe you’ve been replying him with just mensore,” Mitsuki sighed. Now that he thought about it, he vaguely remembered  Ryuu  and Yamato saying that they should go out for a drink together some time. During that schedule with TRIGGER, was it? “Don’t force yourself now. You can’t use mensore for everything, you know.” 

The two betas jumped when, again, Ryuu burst out laughing. “Mic, nentin shimugayaaTouIttaautaautaindoShaking your heart  

“Whoa. He started singing!” 

Jidai  wo  kaketeku   

Mitsuki couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his lips. He hadn’t expected Ryuu to sing IDOLiSH7’s song, much less begin dancing to it. If only Nagi was here to see this! “He’s still good, even when drunk! As expected of TRIGGER! He’s so cool!” 

“His dancing is great too! Tsunashi-san's actually kind of cool right now, for the first time in hours.” 

Ryuu stopped abruptly, turning to look at the two betas seriously. “Yes?” 

“You’re cool! We said you’re super cool!” Yamato assured. “Ah- mensore!”  

Mensore!”  

“It got really fun all of a sudden! I’ll have a drink too!” 

“I’ll drink some more! Alright, onii-san! Do this next! SECRET NIGHT!”  

 

---  

 

“I couldn’t... keep that promise...” 

Tenn nodded, looking at Riku with a hard gaze. “The worst thing you can do as an idol is disappoint the fans,” he said, uncaring of the fact that Riku was obviously disheartened by his words. There were things that had to be said and done, even if he had to hurt Riku’s feelings in the process. He'd done it before; he was more than willing to do it again. 

“If they ever feel hurt or pained because they’re a fan of Kujo Tenn... that’s something I absolutely cannot forgive,” he continued. “I don’t want them to ever regret being, or having been, my fan. Even if they move onto someone else, or if they stop being my fan, I want them to look back upon the time they spent cheering me on and remember it as something that was fun. I want them to smile at the memories they made during that time.” 

Riku remained silent, unable to come up with a reply to Tenn’s statement. He understood where Tenn was coming from, because he did still feel as if he’d let everyone down by not being able to perform at the encore. Everyone kept telling him that it was alright, but Riku knew it wasn’t. 

“Riku, you’re a good kid who works really hard. That's why I’d forgotten all about my younger brother who couldn’t run, and acknowledged you as a rival,” Tenn said. He didn’t want to have to say this to Riku, but he genuinely felt that it’d be better for the redhead not to be an idol anymore. “But this previous live and rehearsal just confirmed it – you're not suited for this job. It'll only bring you and your fans unhappiness. 

“There is no replacement for our work. If you can be replaced, then it’s just proof that you’re second-rate. The more you aim for the top, the more trouble you cause for those around you by not delivering as promised. We're supported by countless people, entrusted with the lives and responsibilities of hundreds, all just to stand on stage. 

“There’re people who’ve studied for four years, laboured for four months, just to make those four and a half minutes of your singing happen. A miss on our end puts all of that hard work to waste in an instant. Are you aware of that?” 

Riku bit his lower lip, exhaling shakily before looking up and meeting Tenn’s gaze. “I... I just want to sing with everyone...” he mumbled. Is that so wrong?  

Tenn resisted the urge to sigh; Riku’s emotions were too easy to read, be it from his scent or facial expression. He could see just how affected his brother was by his words, but Tenn wasn’t going to mince his words just because of that. He wanted Riku to know exactly how his wilfulness was affecting other people. “If you want to sing with your friends, then just go to karaoke. In that case, I’ll clap for you. I’ll wave the tambourine around and get excited at all the fun you’re having.” 

Riku remained silent, and Tenn pursed his lips. “You said you wanted to know why I left the house, didn’t you?” he asked. Riku nodded, and Tenn continued. “I’ll tell you. It's because our parents forgot that they were responsible for making the customers have fun and enjoy themselves at the shop.” 

Lies, Tenn thought bitterly. As if I could ever tell Riku the truth about why I left.  

“Why do you think our parents’ shop went under?” 

“...because when they were short on money, Kujo came along and put pressure on them...” 

“Wrong. It's because the atmosphere of a shop that’s having trouble with its management affected the dancers. They danced with sullen smiles and unease. Their hearts were restless, and were only going through the motions of singing. Just who would want to pay for a show like that?” 

When he saw that Riku was still at a loss for words, Tenn heaved a soft sigh. He'd lied to Riku so many times already; he could do it again if he had to. Everything he’d done up till now, he’d done for Riku, and he’d do it all over again if it became necessary. The only thing he regretted was that Riku had ended up following him into the entertainment industry. 

“I had opposed Kujo-san at first,” because I didn’t want to leave my only brother behind, “but then he showed me the world of professionals, and that opened my eyes.” He gave me the chance to make sure that you would get the treatment you needed, and that had been the deciding factor for me. 

“A young woman, humbly accepting bouquets of flowers, smiling from ear-to-ear at the finale – she was a wife, whose husband had died suddenly. When the sky is falling down and the whole world is in despair, it is our job to smile, to sing. That’s what Kujo-san taught me. I thought that Kujo-san was right, more so than our parents. That’s why I followed him.” 

He had the financial ability to pay for your medical bills. I couldn’t not follow him.  

Even after everything he’d said, Riku was silent. Tenn silently apologised to Riku, knowing fully well that what he was about to say next was unforgiveable. Riku always forgave him, regardless of what he did, but perhaps even Riku wouldn’t be able to forgive him for this. 

“I’ll say it again,” Tenn said. It’s fine even if you hate me for saying this. “Riku, you’re not capable of doing this job at all. It's best if you quit being an idol.” 

Chapter Text

Iori sighed, looking around in the hopes of finally spotting the white kitten Tamaki had mentioned. 

It had to have been at least half an hour since they’d started looking for it, roaming along the streets nearby the dorm. It was getting late, and the weather was chilly, and Iori was wearing only a thin sweater. He was a little tired already, but he couldn’t run the risk of the kitten being too near to Riku. 

Plus, he really wanted to see a kitten. 

“Tenten!” the omega called out for the nth time. He was glad that the streets were rather quiet at this time of night, because he certainly didn’t want anyone to witness him looking for a kitten with Tamaki. It would be too stark a contrast to his public image, and Iori hadn’t hid his love for cute things for so long for nothing. “Tenten-chan! We can’t seem to find it.” 

Tamaki looked at Iori with a raised brow. “You’re looking for Tenten?” he asked, earning an affirmative nod from Iori. “If so, he’s in Rikkun’s room.” 

Iori turned to look at Tamaki incredulously; surely Tamaki knew better than to let a kitten into Riku’s room, of all places. He knows fully well that Nanase-san shouldn’t be near any animal that sheds fur.“ It’s in Nanase-san's room?!” he repeated, just in case he’d heard wrongly. Tamaki simply nodded, and Iori nearly cursed in frustration. “That’s not good at all! Animal fur isn’t good for him!” 

The alpha blinked slowly, seemingly confused by the situation. “He doesn’t have fur though.” 

“It’s furless!?” 

“Well, he has hair on his head and that’s about it...” 

“Only on the head!?” 

“He has eyebrows, too.” 

“That smooth, hairless kitten does...?” Iori mumbled under his breath. He couldn’t quite imagine what exactly the kitten looked like. But if it was hairless, at least Riku would be able to be around it for a short period of time. That still didn’t mean they didn’t have to find it quickly. “Maybe its owner shaved it, so it ran away. Poor thing...” 

Tamaki shrugged, clearly disinterested in Iori’s thoughts. Instead, his gaze was fixed on the saucer of milk he’d been tasked to hold, feeling his stomach rumble in hunger. He hadn’t had the chance to properly eat his stew, nor had he been able to eat even one King Pudding before being dragged out by Iori. “I’m so hungry. Can I drink this?” 

Iori looked scandalised that Tamaki had even suggested that. “No,” he said firmly, and Tamaki pulled a face. “Drinking milk from a saucer... have you no pride, Yotsuba-san? If there’s a cat in Nanase-san's room, then we must retrieve it?” 

Staring at Iori blankly, Tamaki asked, “There’s a cat in Rikkun’s room?” 

“Isn’t that what you said!?” 

“I didn’t, though?” 

“No?” Iori repeated, just as confused as Tamaki was. He could’ve sworn Tamaki had said that the kitten was in Riku’s room, but perhaps he’d heard wrongly. Given how tired he was, that was most probably the case. “Then we must search elsewhere, before the battery on my phone runs out since it’s recording video right now. Come on, let’s go!” 

“Really...” Tamaki grumbled, sighing loudly to express his displeasure. All he wanted to do was eat his stew and King Pudding in peace, but even that seemed to be too much to ask for. He couldn’t jolly well leave Iori alone, either; he wasn’t so selfish that he’d let Iori be out alone this late at night. Regardless of how annoyed he was, Iori was still an omega, and Tamaki had a duty to protect him in Riku’s absence. “What a pain in the ass... Meow! Kitty! Where are you!” 

“Tenten, we have milk!” 

 

--- 

 

Sougo sighed, hoping that he didn’t sound too long-winded. “...and so, for Tamaki-kun’s own sake and because I want him to behave more responsibly, I may have gone off for too long...” 

Yuki nodded in response, an indication that he’d been paying attention to what Sougo had been saying. It had been a rather long complaint session of sorts, although Sougo had been sure to leave out any names throughout it. He'd gone on and on about how Tamaki had gotten used to doing things as he wished, but the omega had also left out the part where he and Tamaki had managed to find a compromise. 

“I see...” the alpha muttered, not at all sounding apologetic. 

“It appears that someone told Tamaki-kun that he doesn’t have to be well-behaved...” Sougo glanced at Yuki, trying to gauge his reaction. The omega was fully aware that Yuki had been the one who’d said something like that to Tamaki. He was sure that Yuki hadn’t meant any harm, but the reality was that his words had affected Sougo to an extent. 

He didn’t exactly expect Yuki to apologise for it or anything, but he also didn’t expect Yuki to say, “That person’s the absolute worst. They don’t know just how hard Sougo-kun works.” 

“Right!?” was Sougo’s initial reaction, before he caught himself and wondered why he was agreeing with Yuki so readily. Even if Yuki had only been giving Tamaki advice out of goodwill, he’d still been the one who’d said something irresponsible to his boyfriend. 

It didn’t help at all that Yuki offered a reassuring smile and pat on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’m on your side,” Yuki said, and Sougo had no idea what to say. On one hand, he really wanted to tell Yuki that he’d been talking about him this entire time. On the other hand, Yuki was still a senpai, and it seemed like he didn’t even remember saying anything like that. 

In the end, Sougo sighed inwardly and managed a small smile. “Yuki-san...” 

On the other side of the room, Momo was holding out a bromide with Nagi’s face on it, along with a black marker. “Nagi, can you sign over here?” Momo asked, as if he would ever accept no for an answer. “And write to Kaoru-chan.”  

Nagi made a face, looking extremely disappointed. “Oh... This doesn’t feel like a Special Mission at all. It's terribly plain...” he muttered. He had no idea why Momo was asking this of him; he didn’t think the beta was a particularly big fan of his. 

“Not at all!” Momo was quick to reply, as brightly as ever. “With these signed goods, there’s going to be a once-in-a-century event happening!” 

Why?”  

Momo frowned, not wanting to admit that he simply wanted to have a bargaining chip to use if he ever had to negotiate with Anesagi. Nagi didn’t seem like he’d be very agreeable to it. “It’s still a secret!” the beta said instead. Times like these, he was glad that he was a beta. It was much easier to lie when he didn’t have to worry about being exposed through his scent. “How about you leave a kiss here? Alright, here’s some lipstick! Now give it a big kiss!” 

Oh... Kissing a bromide of yourself... How terribly perverse...” 

“How about practicing on a bromide of me then?” Momo suggested, oblivious to the way Yuki’s head snapped to look in his direction immediately. “Will you get in the mood and kiss it properly?” 

Oh...” Nagi said, glancing at the other alpha in his room. Yuki was doing a good enough job of masking the displeasure from his expression, but the same couldn’t be said for his scent. While Nagi couldn’t know for sure if Yuki was doing it on purpose or not, he definitely knew that Sougo wasn’t comfortable with it. “Mr. Yuki, would it be okay if you don’t make Sougo uncomfortable like that?” the blond requested, keeping his tone as pleasant as he could. 

“I’m alright, Nagi-kun. Don’t worry about me.” 

At the same time, Momo clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “Darling, what did I tell you about controlling your jealousy?” the beta reminded sweetly. 

Earlier in the day, while they had been in the car on the way over, Momo had made sure to tell Yuki that he would be doing his best to convince Nagi to sign the bromide. He'd also been mentioned that doing his best included using words that Yuki might not quite like, and Yuki had very clearly agreed that he would keep his jealousy in check. 

But, obviously, things hadn’t gone as intended. Yuki pursed his lips, fully aware of what he’d been subconsciously doing. “No, no. Nagi-kun and Momo are right; I shouldn’t have done that,” Yuki sighed. It was still hard for him not to be overly possessive when it came to Momo, but that was no excuse for him to have allowed himself to cause Sougo any type of discomfort. He'd made a promise to himself that he wouldn’t ever mistreat an omega. “I did exactly what I told Tamaki-kun not to do. I apologise.” 

“It’s fine!” Sougo exclaimed. “I really don’t mind, Yuki-san!” 

“It’d be good if you just accept his apology, Sougo,” Momo said. “Yuki isn’t going to get over this until you do that. He's really strict with how he treats omegas.” 

“T-then, I forgive you, Yuki-san,” Sougo managed to say, inwardly wincing at the fact that he’d caused Yuki to have to apologise to him. The mindset that he was inferior to alphas was still deeply ingrained in him, and probably would be for a long time yet. The fact that Yuki was a senior in the industry wasn’t really helping, either. Honestly, he felt terrible that Yuki had to apologise at all. 

But Yuki seemed relieved to hear his response, and Sougo forced his negative thoughts away. 

“Anyway, do you think Yamato will be back anytime soon?” 

 

--- 

 

Riku looked at Tenn in incredulity, trying to figure out if he’d heard his brother correctly. “Quit being an idol...” he repeated, feeling his heart sink when Tenn nodded affirmatively. 

“Yes,” Tenn confirmed, painfully aware of how Riku was feeling at the moment. “Rising up to expectations, keeping promises – there's so much pressure in this world. It's too harsh on you, Riku. That's why-” 

“...so you went with Kujo just because mum and dad were wrong?” Riku asked in a small voice. He suddenly felt like he was thirteen again, when Tenn had gone off with Kujo and never returned. The way he felt now was the same as how he felt then: confused, betrayed, devastated. 

He'd thought that there was a legitimate reason why Tenn had left, something other than the fact that he believed in Kujo more than he did in their family. And yet Tenn had crushed whatever hope Riku still harboured. “Then... you really did abandon us...” 

“Riku...” 

“If they were wrong, then you should’ve told them!” Riku shouted angrily. All these years, he’d believed in Tenn, thinking that maybe Kujo had threatened him somehow. He felt like an idiot now, for believing in Tenn for so long. “Or said something! You... you should’ve helped them! 

“After losing the shop, and losing you... She didn’t show it in front of me, but mum was always crying... I saw dad crying by himself, too...” Riku laughed bitterly. The few months after Tenn had left had been the most trying time of his life. After all, Riku hadn’t known a life without Tenn. From the very moment he was born, Tenn had been there with him, looking after him and worrying about him. “I cried too, all the time... I thought, maybe you hated being forced into taking care of me...” 

Tenn reached out instinctively, the way he always did when they were younger and Riku was upset. He wanted to put his hand on Riku’s arm, tell him that he was wrong, that he was misunderstanding everything. That yes, he did agree with Kujo, but that hadn’t been the main reason why he’d left. “Riku... that’s not it, I...” 

When Riku flinched away, Tenn felt a piece of himself break. He'd been convinced that he would be okay even if Riku hated him for this – he'd done it once before after all. But this was different, because back then he hadn’t been there to see the aftermath of his decision. He didn’t realise exactly how painful it was to see how upset Riku was, hear how angry he was. He hadn’t realised that Riku had been blaming himself all this time. 

“Don’t touch me! When we, your family were suffering the most...” Tenn stiffened when he saw tears well up in Riku’s eyes. “You threw us away!” The redhead broke off to cough, and Tenn almost reached out to Riku again. “Kujo, who closed down our shop... Just because you felt that Kujo was right...! That was your only reason...!” 

“Riku, you shouldn’t get too agitated,” Tenn advised calmly, the same way he had done so many times before. “Calm down, and talk-” 

“That’s not fair of you, Tenn-nii!” Riku cut him off, completely ignoring Tenn and furiously wiping at his eyes. “For someone who threw away their own family and became an idol, telling me to quit... haa... I... I’ve always... I thought that you’d tell me one day, after I grew up or after I became healthy, to sing together with you..." Riku continued to wheeze, his breaths coming in shallow pants. “But Tenn-nii... didn’t need me after all...” 

Tenn shook his head. He desperately wanted to tell Riku the truth, but if he did, then Riku would end up blaming himself again. For the first time in his life, Tenn didn’t know what he was supposed to say. “Riku, that’s not the case at all. I’ve never forgotten you, Riku, not even once-” 

Tenten-chan , we have milk for you!”  

“We’ve been together ever since we were born, since  before  we were born. That's why-” 

“Natsu shiyouze ♪”  

Tenn glared at the door, mentally willing whoever was singing to keep quiet. “Anyways, what I wanted to say was-” 

The doorbell rang, cutting Tenn off once more. “Hello! It's Yamamura Soba!”  

“...shut up!” 

 

--- 

 

Mitsuki looked up when he heard the doorbell. “Our food’s here!” 

Ryuu laughed, standing up rather unsteadily. “Soba no menkaii, restroom kai, icchikii!”  

“The restroom? Don't take too long!” Mitsuki called out as Ryuu disappeared down the hallway. He went to unlock the door for the soba delivery person. “Thank you so much!” 

“Thank you for your continued patronage,” the delivery person replied warmly. 

“Ah!” Mitsuki realised with a start. “It’s the rumoured Yaotome lookalike! Wow, you really do look exactly like him. Come in for a bit.” 

“I get that a lot,” Gaku replied smoothly, more than used to lying about his identity by now. He spotted a familiar pair of shoes by the door; he’d recognise Tenn’s shoes anywhere. He could also smell their centre’s scent in the doorway, though it was faint, along with a scent that seemed suspiciously like Ryuu’s. What’s Tenn doing here? For Nanase? “Here. Tempura soba for three. Careful, it’s hot.” 

“Ah, thanks.” 

The door clicked open suddenly, and Tsumugi greeted, “Good evening. I brought over some leftovers from dinner.” 

The alpha turned around, wondering if he should keep up his act as Yamamura. Tenn would know immediately that he was Gaku, and while he did enjoy eliciting annoyance from the younger, he much preferred doing it without having to pretend to be someone else. But it would be strange if he didn’t act as he usually did, so Gaku turned to look at Tsumugi, letting go of the soba in the process. 

Mitsuki’s eyes widened as he caught the soba, sighing in relief when nothing spilt. “Whoa, that was close! Don’t let go all of a sudden!” he scolded. 

“Sorry. Hey, long time no see.” 

“Ah, the soba shop worker!” Tsumugi greeted, looking down at her packets of food in mild disappointment. “They got soba, so I guess they won’t be needing this.” 

“Did you cook this yourself?” Gaku asked curiously. “What did you make?” 

“Simmered chicken with vegetables! Since everyone said they weren’t getting enough veggies.” 

“It looks good,” Gaku said, genuinely impressed by Tsumugi. Anesagi had never cooked for them before, because she wasn’t big on anything involving manual labour. Driving them around was fine, and she was used to running around to talk to sponsors, but personally preparing a meal was something they couldn’t expect from her. She'd be more than willing to help them order takeout, though. “If they don’t need it, I’ll eat it. I’ll put the soba on the table.” 

“Thank you very much.” 

“You know...” Yamato whispered, standing by the wall with Mitsuki, “It’s kind of unforgivable that a soba shop worker overflowing with ikemen aura exists...” 

“Why does it feel like we’re being partitioned off, and in our own house to boot...” 

Tsumugi chuckled. “After seeing you again, you really do look like Gaku-san,” she commented. “Gaku-san seems kind of scary, but I think he’s also kind like you.” 

“Do you like Yaotome Gaku?” 

“Yes. Quite a bit.” 

Gaku nearly looked away from Tsumugi when he heard a door open, though it was faint, and Tenn’s scent steadily grew stronger as the centre got closer to them. It normally wouldn’t be this easy to smell Tenn from a distance, but the fact that he seemed rather angry was helping a fair bit. “I’m sure a girl like you would be able to get Yaotome to fall for you.” 

“Someone like me? Not at all!” Tsumugi dismissed the possibility as quickly as it had been suggested. The alpha was glad that she did; he wasn’t sure what to do if she actually did entertain such a possibility. “More importantly, in the off-chance that something that dream-like ever happened... Gaku-san is a popular idol. I would never let there be special relations between me and an idol from another agency.” 

“I see...” Gaku replied, doing his best to sound as despondent as someone who’d just been rejected. He did agree that it wasn’t ideal to date a manager from another agency; it probably wasn’t a good idea as an idol to date at all, but Gaku could hope. 

“It’s the worst thing you could do in terms of etiquette,” Tsumugi continued, “as someone who works in a production agency – because it’s very clear what’s right and what’s wrong.” 

“And yet we have people in our group- ouch.” 

“Shut it, ossan!” 

“Then, how about a plain old soba shop worker?” 

The moment the words left Gaku’s mouth, he had to ask himself why he’d said it. He felt as confused as Tsumugi looked, as if she couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. Gaku himself couldn’t believe that he’d gone and said that, especially when Tenn was probably within earshot. “Huh...?” the beta asked. 

Ah, screw this. Please don’t say yes, Tsumugi.“When are you free?” Gaku asked, trying not to be overly conscious of the fact that Tenn was getting closer to them as each second passed. “Make some time. I’ll take you to all your favourite places.” 

“Ah...” 

“I won’t let you be bored, not even for an instant. I, a plain old soba shop worker, promise to give you the best day of your life. How about it, Tsumugi? Sound good?” 

Tsumugi stared at Gaku for a few seconds before eventually replying, “Um... I’m really happy you feel that way, but... doing something like that, with a stranger, is a little...” 

Gaku almost heaved a sigh of relief. “Right...” 

“How lame,” Tenn said from beside them. Gaku wondered how much of their conversation the centre had heard. He didn’t remember closing the door after entering. 

But Gaku had a pretense to keep up, at least until he was out of IDOLiSH7’s dorm. “You...!?” 

“Kujo-san!?” 

“Not only were you rejected, you pretended to be someone else and flirted, only to get rejected again,” Tenn scoffed. Gaku held himself back from raising a brow; Tenn was usually irritable, yes, but not quite to this extent. His tone was flat, emotionless, not at all mocking like it usually was. “So lame.” 

“What are you talking about? I think you have the wrong person,” Gaku tried to hint, but Tenn wasn’t even sparing him a glance. The only thing he could think of that could’ve caused this was that, whatever Tenn had talked to Riku about, things hadn’t gone very well. 

Tenn finally looked at Gaku, cocking an eyebrow at him challengingly. “You’re the #1 Most Desired Man, aren’t you?” the alpha asked. Gaku furrowed his brows, just the slightest bit, and Tenn sighed in what he hoped was understanding. 

“Actually, he isn’t!” Tsumugi cut in. “This person works at a soba shop nearby. Right, Yamamura-san?” 

Gaku was about to reply, but the main door clicked open, and Iori’s voice drifted in. “Tenten-” 

“Kitty-” 

“Are they practicing for a comedy skit?” Gaku questioned incredulously. 

 

--- 

 

Iori startled when he heard Gaku’s voice, whipping around to look at the two alphas. “TRIGGER!? What are you guys doing here?!” he questioned, trying not to sound too alarmed. He was fully aware of the fact that he wasn’t wearing scent neutralisers, though he was at least wearing Riku’s jacket. It'd conveniently been on his chair, and would’ve been left with him until his heat was over, about three weeks later. 

He just hoped that it would be enough to conceal his identity as an omega. 

“Uwaaah! Iorin, there’s an emergency!” 

“What’s the matter!?” 

“My pudding is gone!” 

“What...” 

“‘What’?” Tamaki repeated in disbelief. He seemed to have forgotten all he’d thought about protecting Iori in Riku’s absence, now that his pudding was involved. “Just what was the point of me wandering around and going, ‘here, kitty kitty’!?” 

“It was for Tenten’s sake!” 

Tenn clicked his tongue, and Iori sighed inwardly. “Listen. I’m having an important conversation with someone, so could you  all  quiet down?” Tenn said, sending a pointed glare towards Gaku as well. The leader of TRIGGER seemed affronted by the glare, as if he’d been wrongly accused. “Also, please stop calling me Tenten.” 

“What? What are you even saying?” Iori asked in confusion. “Just how old are you? Aren’t you older than me? To think that a cute nickname like Tenten is referring to you... What a grievous misunderstanding...” 

“Tenten!” Tamaki exclaimed. “My pudding’s gone!” 

“...this person is Tenten!?” 

Tenn gave Iori a deadpan stare. “And your apology?” 

Iori internally debated if he should apologise to Tenn, because he really didn’t want to. “Ugh... I apologise, Kujo-san,” Iori said reluctantly. While he did believe that Tenn wasn’t the sort to lose him temper easily, Iori didn’t want to risk anything. It wouldn’t be good for him and Riku if he did accidentally piss Tenn off – the alpha seemed plenty pissed off already. 

Speaking of Nanase-san...  Iori wrinkled his nose, wondering why his boyfriend was upset. It didn’t take long for him to piece together that of course, Tenn had to have spoken to Riku. That was the only plausible reason the omega could think of. 

It also didn’t take long for Iori to realise that, whatever they’d been talking about, they weren’t quite finished yet. Riku’s scent was quickly getting closer to them, and the alpha stormed into the living area just as Tamaki went out in search of his pudding. 

Riku didn’t even say anything to or look at Iori, which admittedly hurt quite a bit, but Iori couldn’t even find the heart to be upset at Riku – the tears welling up in Riku’s eyes were more painful to see. Iori’s previous worries about his being an omega being revealed were pushed to the back of his mind. All he could think about was how he should calm his alpha down before he worked himself into an attack. 

Tenn looked as pained as Iori felt. “Riku...” 

“Riku-san... Are you crying!?” 

Riku didn’t pay Tsumugi any heed, instead keeping his gaze on Tenn. “No matter what Tenn-nii says...” he cut himself off midsentence to cough, and Iori’s hand ached with the urge to reach out to the alpha. “I... I’ll never quit IDOLiSH7!” 

“Quit IDOLiSH7...?” Yamato repeated from behind the couch. 

“You may have thrown me away, Tenn-nii, but everyone needs me here, so...!” Riku turned to Iori for the first time since he’d come into the living area. He wore a determined look on his face; Iori thought that it’d be nice if Riku could always be this determined. “Iori, didn’t you say that you’ll make me into a superstar!” 

“...huh?” 

“Oh?” Mitsuki spoke up. “Iori, I didn’t know you could say something so passionate.” 

“That’s youth for you.” 

The omega felt himself flush in mild embarrassment. It'd been fine to say that to Riku, and Riku alone. He had never intended for anybody else to find out about this. “Y-you’re wrong. I’d never say something so embarrassing...” 

Riku’s face fell, for just a fraction of a second, before he was frowning in determination again. “You did though! Say it again, so Tenn-nii can hear!” 

“Ah... That was...” Iori struggled to find an excuse for himself. It was one thing to repeat those words in front of the IDOLiSH7 members, and another thing entirely to say it to Tenn and their local soba shop worker. “I only said that because I got carried away by the atmosphere of the place...” 

“Say it!” Riku demanded, this time adding a push into his voice. 

Iori froze, having to swallow past the lump that had formed in his throat. Riku had told him, more than once, that he was sorry for using his alpha voice on him. That he promised not to do it again. Logically, Iori knew that Riku would have kept his promise if he wasn’t so agitated, but that didn’t mean that he was any less hurt by it. 

He saw the two members of TRIGGER glance at him, the only other two in the room who would be aware that Riku had used his alpha voice on Iori. The only thing Iori could be glad about was that the push in Riku’s voice had been subtle enough that he didn’t accidentally let out a whimper. That would’ve been a dead giveaway of his secondary gender. 

“I...” Iori sighed, forcing himself to look straight at Tenn. “I definitely will, without fail, make Nanase-san into a superstar.” 

“Now that’s youth, alright!” the two betas called out from the couch, blissfully unaware of the inner turmoil raging within Iori. He desperately wanted to be able to get angry at Riku, but when Riku was as high-strung as he was now, it was hard to pin any blame on him. 

So, instead, he opted to deal with that inner turmoil later, after they’d managed to evict the two outsiders from their dorm. “Please be quiet, you drunkards!” 

Tenn didn’t reply, simply looked at Iori with as if he was deep in thought. It took all of Iori’s willpower not to squirm under the alpha’s gaze – it wouldn’t be strange if Tenn knew his secret already. 

Riku turned to Tsumugi next, either uncaring or unaware of what he’d just done. “Manager, you said so too, right!? That I’m someone IDOLiSH7 absolutely needs!” 

“Ah, yes... I did say that...” 

“Say it again, to Tenn-nii!” 

“R-Riku-san is an important person that IDOLiSH7 absolutely needs! We’d be deeply troubled if he quit!” 

“See?” Riku turned back to Tenn, his tone challenging. “This is what everyone else is saying! Tenn-nii is the only person saying cruel things to me! Someone like Tenn-nii...” Riku dissolved into a coughing fit, and Tsumugi’s eyes widened in concern. 

Iori couldn’t move towards Riku, couldn’t afford to seem overly concerned for his own boyfriend, not in front of Tenn. Tenn seemed plenty suspicious of him already, even without him being open about his worry for Riku. 

“Riku-san! Are you okay!?” 

“Hey, I don’t know what happened, but how about we leave it at that?” Gaku suggested, shooting Tenn a pointed look. He hoped that, for once, their centre would be able to take a hint and let go of his pride a little. “The soba’s getting cold.” 

But, naturally, Tenn snapped, “Don’t butt in, soba shop worker.” 

“I’m throwing you a lifeline, though?!” 

“Riku...” Tenn tried again. “Listen.” 

“No!” 

“...you’re not going to listen to what I say?” 

“...never!” 

“I see...” Tenn pressed his lips into a line, his gaze returning to Iori’s figure briefly. “Then, fine. I won’t talk to someone so unreasonable.” 

“Tenn-nii...” 

“I refuse to acknowledge you as an idol.” 

At this, Iori couldn’t not speak up. But Gaku beat him to it, grabbing Tenn’s arm and saying to him, “I’m telling you, you’re out of line...” 

Tenn yanked his arm out of Gaku’s grip. “Shut up, soba shop worker!” 

The door clicked open for what was probably the hundredth time that evening, and Ryuu stepped into the royal mess of an argument between the twins. “Sorry, sorry! I fell asleep in the bathroom. But thanks to that, I’ve sobered up- why is everyone here!?” Ryuu questioned, looking around in confusion. “Wait, this isn’t the karaoke place!?” 

“We’re going, Ryuu.” 

“...Tenn, what happened?” Ryuu asked, not at all reading the atmosphere of the room. Gaku wondered why his teammate was this dense. “Are you okay? You seem a little...” 

“Nothing,” Tenn replied curtly, turning and walking out of the dorm without sparing Riku another glance. 

Gaku watched as Ryuu followed behind their centre, sighing loudly before saying, “Alright... Just leave the containers out front.” 

“Ah... Thank you very much...” 

They heard the front door shut, finally, and Tsumugi placed a hand on Riku’s arm. “Riku-san...” 

Iori looked on mutely as Riku’s shoulders began to shake with silent sobs. He wanted to be able to comfort Riku and tell him that things were going to be alright, but Iori himself was still in shock from Riku using his alpha voice on him. He had no idea at all how he should feel or act. 

“Tenn-nii... I really hate you...” 

Chapter Text

Tamaki stormed down the dorm’s corridor, intent on finding out who exactly it was who’d eaten his pudding. It was bad enough if they ate one; he’d gotten ten entire King Puddings from Tenn, and all of them had vanished within the hour that he’d been gone. 

The alpha had been on his way to Sougo’s room, wanting to ask his boyfriend if he knew anything about it, when he passed by Nagi’s room and caught a hint of Sougo’s scent. Furrowing his brows, a little confused because Sougo was supposed to have finished the MagiKona marathon by now, Tamaki pushed the door open without bothering to knock. 

The moment Sougo had smelt Tamaki’s scent, he’d been repeating the words please don’t come in in his head like a mantra. The empty cups of King Pudding were still scattered over Nagi’s table, two of them were still half-eaten, and the nearly empty pot of stew was still placed on the table as well. 

But, naturally, Tamaki had opened the door anyway, and Sougo winced when Tamaki’s scent went from angry to downright livid. He couldn’t even blame Tamaki for being this furious – he'd known from the start that he absolutely could not let his boyfriend find out about Re:vale being the ones who’d taken his puddings. 

Yuki and Momo glanced at Tamaki when he entered Nagi’s room, and had looked at each other before abruptly getting up. “Well then, I believe this is our cue to leave!” Momo exclaimed quickly, grabbing onto Yuki’s wrist and pulling him out of the room. “It was nice talking to you guys! Thanks for completing the Secret Mission with me, Nagi! Bye, Tamaki!” 

“Wait, Momo-san...!” Sougo watched with wide eyes as Momo pushed his way past Tamaki, making their escape before Tamaki could process what was happening. Tamaki didn’t even try to stop the duo, instead staring dumbly as they disappeared down the corridor and out of the dorm. 

Then, Tamaki turned back to look at his boyfriend, not at all caring about Nagi, even though it was his room that they were in. “Souchan, you let them eat my pudding?” Tamaki asked in disbelief, as if the empty pudding cups weren’t enough proof already. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Tamaki wanted to believe that Sougo had tried to stop them, that he’d been forced into letting them have the pudding. 

But Sougo only worried at his lower lip, and Tamaki could only feel both upset and disappointed when the omega’s scent changed from panicked to guilty. “They... Momo-san said he wanted to eat some, and Yuki-san said he was hungry and wanted to have the stew...” he mumbled, flinching when Tamaki cursed under his breath. He'd seen Tamaki angry on many occasions, but he couldn’t recall an incident in which the alpha actually cursed aloud like this. 

“You could’ve told them no, couldn’t you?!” 

“I’m really sorry, Tamaki-kun,” Sougo apologised, hanging his head in shame. Tamaki was right, and Sougo knew that much, at least. He had wanted to say no to Re:vale, but it’d been so hard to speak up against them, especially since one of them was an alpha. 

That still didn’t excuse the fact that he hadn’t told them not to eat Tamaki’s food, though. Tamaki honestly had every right to be angry at him. “You knew that those are mine!” Tamaki shouted. “Was it so hard to just tell them that?!” 

“I wanted to, but-” 

“Then why didn’t you!?” 

“They pressured me by saying that they’re our senpai!” Sougo argued back, flinching again when Tamaki glared at him. “I couldn’t just tell them that they couldn’t eat it!” 

“Yes, you could! You don’t ever care about how I feel! It’s only ever other people that you care about!” 

“Please stop arguing!” Nagi suddenly exclaimed, sick and tired of listening to the couple argue in his room. They could take their squabble outside, be it in the corridor or living area or their rooms. His room certainly wasn’t the best time and place for it. “Tamaki, don’t be angry at Sougo!” 

Tamaki turned to glare at Nagi. “How would you like it if Mikki gave your figures to someone else without even asking you?” he questioned, picking up the figure closest to him as if to prove his point. In the process, he knocked over the figure beside it, and Kokona fell to the floor with a clatter. 

Her head, detachable, rolled off her body towards Nagi’s feet, and her wand fell out of her hand. Nagi’s eyes widened in horror, and he picked up her head, holding it with both hands while looking at Tamaki like he was a murderer. “NO! My Kokona! You two, get out of my room!” Nagi demanded. At least he was careful not to use his alpha voice, for which Sougo was glad. 

Sougo stared at Kokona’s head, looking at Tamaki and saying, “Tamaki-kun, apologise!” 

“Why should I? Nagicchi didn’t stop Yukirin and Momorin from eating my pudding, either!” 

“It’s my fault, okay? I’ll take responsibility for it and buy you another ten King Puddings tomorrow, so just apologise to Nagi-kun already!” 

“Money doesn’t solve everything, Souchan! That’s not sincere at all!” 

“Get out!” 

 

--- 

 

The members of TRIGGER walked down the street in relative silence. 

It was only until they reached the area where Gaku had parked his delivery vehicle that the leader sent a pointed look in Tenn’s direction. The centre had been wearing a scowl on his face ever since he’d turned away from Riku; it was a good thing they hadn’t run into any fans while walking. “Don’t have to look that displeased just because your younger brother hates you now,” Gaku said. 

“He doesn’t hate me,” Tenn bit out, glaring at Gaku and wondering, not for the first time, what exactly it was that he liked about the silver-haired male. 

“No, he definitely does,” Gaku said matter-of-factly. He knew he wasn’t going to earn any brownie points with Tenn for saying this, but he’d never been the type to lie just for the sake of making someone feel better. He'd much rather be honest with them, hurt their feelings now rather than let them get hurt later. “It’s only natural, since you said such terrible things to him.” 

Tenn narrowed his eyes, even more than he already had been doing. “He does not hate me.” 

Gaku sighed. Tenn was hard-headed at the best of times – now he was simply in denial. “Just take it like a man,” he advised, not at all affected by the way Tenn was still glaring at him. 

“I don’t want to hear that from a man who tried to hit on someone but got rejected twice in five minutes,” Tenn deadpanned. It irked him that Gaku was still trying to flirt with Tsumugi, even when she so clearly didn’t reciprocate his feelings. He had no idea why he was getting so worked up, though, since it wasn’t as if he had a chance with Gaku, anyway. 

It wasn’t just that Gaku was obviously interested in someone else, given the frequency with which he hit on Tsumugi. Tenn had promised to devote himself to his career and his fans, and Kujo would definitely be disapproving of him being in a relationship. It didn’t make it any less complicated that they were from the same agency and in the same group. Things could never work out between them. 

“I was not hitting on her!” Gaku insisted. He‘d known from the start that Tenn would misunderstand and, while his intention had been to make Tenn jealous, Gaku couldn’t say he wasn’t frustrated with how things were between them right now. If he didn’t clear up this misunderstanding soon, Tenn would forever be under the impression that it was Tsumugi he liked. 

That was about as far from the truth as it could get, but it also wasn’t as if he could just confess to Tenn that he had romantic feelings for him. If there was one thing that Tenn would never be willing to compromise on, it was his professionalism and the sense of duty he held towards their fans. Getting into a relationship would be a betrayal of that, and Gaku doubted that he would be able to change Tenn’s mindset. 

From behind them, Ryuu groaned in misery. “...can you guys not talk so loudly... ah... my head hurts...” 

Both Gaku and Tenn turned back to look at Ryuu, screaming incoherently in his face, and the eldest of the trio winced. He knew they were both uptight right now, but honestly, he was tired of their constant bickering. It was too easy for him, as a third party, to see how the two of them felt about each other. So many times, he’d wanted to just tell them how oblivious they were being. 

But he couldn’t simply try to matchmake for them. They wouldn’t believe him anyway, and he always did think that these things had to be figured out by the parties involved themselves. “-okay, I’m sorry! I’ll be careful not to drink too much next time...” Ryuu sighed, rubbing at his pounding temples. “Are those kids okay, though...” 

“You mean Nanase?” 

“Not just him,” Ryuu clarified. “Iori-kun looked bothered by something.” 

“You think it might have something to do with Nanase using his alpha voice?” Gaku guessed. 

Tenn frowned, looking around them to make sure that there wasn’t anybody nearby. “That would mean that he’s an omega, doesn’t it?” he asked in a low voice, though he already knew the answer. 

It didn’t take a genius to know that, generally, it was only omegas who were affected by an alpha adding a push into his voice. “It wasn’t even that much of a push,” Tenn added. “A beta wouldn’t possibly be affected by it, and an alpha certainly wouldn’t.” 

Gaku mirrored Tenn’s expression, momentarily forgetting that he’d been arguing with the centre just minutes ago. “An omega? Working as an idol?” Gaku questioned in disbelief. Sousuke had always looked down on omegas, calling them weak and saying that they would never be able to make it far in life. Gaku’s own mother was an omega, and Sousuke had refused to become mates with her. 

Gaku himself had no such prejudice against omegas, but it was difficult to believe that Iori was one. The younger was extremely professional, and never showed any signs that he was anything other than a beta. “He’s the centre for IDOLiSH7 now, isn’t he?” 

“It would explain why they always have to reschedule recordings for longer than just three days,” Ryuu added thoughtfully. It was difficult for fans to know when exactly certain programmes were recorded since they weren’t always aired live, but much easier for those within the industry to find out. “I did think that there was an omega’s scent in their dorm...” 

“Not only one,” Tenn corrected, astute as always. “There’s at least one other omega in their team.” 

“From what we know, I’m willing to bet that it’s Ousaka Sougo.” 

“That is the most logical choice,” Tenn agreed. He'd had his suspicions about Iori ever since that night in Okinawa, but he’d never seen the need to dig further into it. After all, it was fine as long as Iori did his part as an idol. That had always been Tenn’s opinions regarding omegas who were idols. Or, well, any idol in general. 

Now, though... “Did you notice that he was wearing Riku’s clothes?” 

“Well, yeah,” Gaku replied, as if it’d been the most obvious thing ever. “It’s kind of hard to miss Nanase’s scent, since it’s similar to yours. I honestly thought I was imagining the scent of an omega coming from Izumi-otouto.” 

“What do you think Izumi Iori’s scent smelt like?” 

“I don’t really know. It was kind of masked by Nanase’s scent. Seemed a little like strawberry to me.” 

“I think...” Tenn pursed his lips, for once wanting to be wrong, “that he smelt like strawberry donuts.” 

Ryuu looked at Tenn curiously. “What of it? Wait; you like donuts, don’t you, Tenn?” 

“I like chocolate donuts. Riku’s the one who loves strawberry donuts. It's his favourite food.” 

“You don’t mean- mmfh!” 

“Shhh!” Tenn hissed, quickly clamping a hand over Gaku’s mouth. The streets were largely empty at this point, there wasn’t really anybody around them, and still Tenn was worried that somebody was eavesdropping on them. He may have just had a huge argument with Riku, but that didn’t mean that he would ever intentionally reveal any of his brother’s secrets to the public. 

Something as major as being a fated pair, even if they had no way to confirm it now, wasn’t something that they could carelessly say outside. They had no idea who was listening, and for a group that was still as new as IDOLiSH7 was, news like this could mean the end of their career. Tenn did say that it’d be better if Riku wasn’t an idol, but not like this. 

It wasn’t as if he particularly approved of idols in the same group dating each other, but if they really were a fated pair, he supposed he couldn’t blame them for it. The least Tenn could do for Riku was to protect this secret of his – Riku deserved to be loved, and Tenn couldn’t be the one to give it to him. He didn’t really like Iori, either, but it was pretty obvious that Iori cared a great deal about Riku. 

In hindsight, now that they knew there was definitely something going on between Riku and Iori, it was obvious why the omega so clearly disliked Tenn. He'd defended Riku on many occasions – previously they’d thought that he’d just been protecting the centre of his group, but now they knew that it had been an omega standing up for his alpha. 

Gaku pulled Tenn’s hand away from his mouth, taking in a few deep breaths before looking at Tenn. “Oi, did you have to suffocate me like that?” 

“It’s because you don’t think before you speak.” 

“Guys, please, stop fighting.” 

“This secret remains between us,” Tenn said firmly, and Gaku raised a brow at him. 

“That goes without saying, doesn’t it?” he questioned. He hadn’t ever doubted that they were to keep this a secret. Tenn had never been the type to sabotage others, and it wasn’t as if Riku and Iori had let their fans down by openly dating. “You said some nasty things to Nanase, but you’re still just a big softie for him, aren’t you? Must be nice to have a big brother who cares.” 

Tenn glared at Gaku from the corner of his eye. Gaku wasn’t wrong, but he didn’t want to hear any more of the leader’s sarcastic remarks. “Shut up, Gaku. If there’s nothing else, I’m going home.” 

“I’m going to cab back,” Ryuu announced, still nursing his pounding head. 

“Some hot tea should help,” Gaku advised, flagging a cab for Ryuu and watching as it drove off. 

Once the cab was out of sight, Gaku looked over at Tenn. “Brat, do you want a ride home?” he asked. 

“In your little delivery vehicle?” Tenn retorted, refusing to acknowledge the blush that threatened to make itself known. It wasn’t often that Gaku offered to do anything nice for him; the offer would usually also be extended to Ryuu and Anesagi. He had to stomp down on the little bit of hope he was holding onto. It’s not like I’m special or anything. It wouldn’t have been ideal for Ryuu to ride on that in his current state, and it wouldn’t fit all of us anyway,  he reasoned. 

Gaku shrugged. “I mean, I don’t exactly have a car. We'll have to make do.” 

Tenn thought about it for a moment. Spending any length of time alone with Gaku was difficult; Tenn’s mind tended to wander to the possibility of ever being in a relationship with his leader. Furthermore, he had literally just told Gaku that it was pathetic to court Tsumugi and be rejected twice in a row. Surely Gaku wouldn’t see Tenn in a positive light now. 

“I suppose it’s fine,” Tenn said nonchalantly. “Ah, but you’ll have to drop me off at the corner of the street. I don’t want Kujo-san to see me riding that.” 

“Are you looking down on my delivery vehicle?” Gaku asked, sounding offended. He jerked a finger towards the vehicle. “You'll have to sit in front of me, though. It might be a bit of a tight fit.” 

“How convenient of you to mention this only now,” Tenn said dryly, though he’d already realised that moments ago. He would have to sit between Gaku’s legs, which was an extremely compromising and embarrassing position to put himself in, but at least he wouldn’t have to look at Gaku’s face throughout the entire journey. “You’d better not try anything funny.” 

To Tenn’s surprise, it was Gaku who flushed. “I-I won’t! Get in already. We don’t have all night.” 

 

--- 

 

Not once in his life had Tenn ever thought that he would be sitting in a soba delivery vehicle. 

He had definitely never imagined himself sitting in front of Gaku, awkwardly fitting between the latter’s legs, with Gaku’s arms on either side of him. It made him feel incredibly small, as if he had to be protected by Gaku despite being an alpha himself, even though logically he knew that this way the only way for Gaku to properly drive the vehicle. 

His house, Kujo’s house, wasn’t too far away from IDOLiSH7’s dorm. It was near Shibuya, and it would’ve been only a fifteen-minute drive if not for the fact that there was a bit of traffic holding them up. It was late already, and everybody was in a rush to get back home in order to get enough rest for the next day. 

When the traffic light turned red, Gaku let out a sigh, his breath tickling the nape of Tenn’s neck. “I forgot that this road would be crowded. My bad, Tenn. You'll have to endure being in this position for a little while longer,” Gaku apologised. He didn’t know what Tenn felt about the position they were in at the moment, but it was incredibly awkward for him. 

Never in his wildest dreams had he considered the possibility of driving Tenn back home in his soba delivery vehicle. It might’ve been considerably less awkward if they hadn’t been arguing before the topic of Iori being an omega was brought up, but what did Gaku know? He had no such experience whatsoever. In fact, he still couldn’t believe that Tenn had even agreed to this. It’d be better if I owned a car of my own, huh.  

“It’s fine,” Tenn said, his voice devoid of any emotion. He was glad that Gaku couldn’t see how red his face was; it’d taken everything in him not to shiver at the sensation of Gaku’s breath against his neck. “I was the one who accepted your offer, wasn’t I?” 

“I’m surprised you did,” Gaku replied, and this time Tenn couldn’t help but squirm slightly. “What?” 

“...your breath,” Tenn explained, glad for the darkness of the streets. His voice was muffled slightly because of the mask he was wearing, but Tenn absolutely refused to let fans see him on a Yamamura Soba delivery vehicle. 

“What about it?” 

Tenn felt like he was red all the way down to his chest. Gaku could be so incredibly dense sometimes that it hurt. “It kind of, um, tickles. My neck, I mean.” 

“Huh. I never realised you were this ticklish,” Gaku teased, chuckling softly when Tenn elbowed him in the side. “Don’t attack your driver. It won’t be good for either of us if I run into a streetlamp.” 

“Then stop talking!” Tenn hissed. He very nearly turned around to glare at Gaku, but he caught himself just in time, not wanting to have to look at Gaku’s face in such close proximity. He was fairly certain that it wouldn’t help reduce the redness of his face. 

Gaku hummed his reply, and to Tenn’s relief, he actually did keep quiet for the next minute or two. It was silent as they drove down the street, enjoying the feel of the cool night air against their faces. Tenn found himself smiling underneath his mask – it was rather nice, driving outside like this, being able to sort through his thoughts in the silence. 

But when they stopped at the next intersection, Gaku said, “You know, I really wasn’t hitting on Tsumugi,” and the smile fell off Tenn’s face immediately. 

“It doesn’t really matter to me if you did or not,” Tenn lied, because it most certainly did matter. 

“Maybe it doesn’t,” Gaku allowed, “but I don’t want you to be under the impression that I like Tsumugi. I like somebody else. And I’m sorry about what happened with Nanase. You probably didn’t need me to rub it in, did you.” 

Telling me that you like somebody else doesn’t make it any better, Tenn wanted to say. “It’s fine. I’ll get over the issue with Riku eventually. Didn’t you flirt with her before, though? Besides, don’t forget that we can’t be in a relationship with anyone. It's literally stated in our contracts,” he reminded. 

Gaku sighed, once more onto the nape of Tenn’s neck, and Tenn elbowed him in the side again. “Ah, my bad,” he apologised, completely forgetting that Tenn was ticklish. He could only think about clearing up the misunderstanding about Tsumugi. “I did do that, yes, because she’s an interesting girl. And the person I like... won’t like me back, anyway. I was hoping that she would reject me, honestly, because I wouldn’t know what to do if she didn’t.” 

“So even the #1 Most Desired Man has an unrequited love,” Tenn mused aloud, ignoring the way his chest ached at Gaku’s admission that he had someone he liked. “I mean, Takanashi Tsumugi wasn’t particularly interested in you, either, so she could be considered an unrequited love, right?” 

“I’m telling you, it isn’t her,” Gaku repeated. 

“Does it even matter who it is?” 

Gaku had intended on taking his feelings for Tenn to the grave with him, but something in the younger’s voice told him that he should just admit everything now. For some reason, Tenn sounded resigned, and it was showed in his scent, too. Gaku didn’t like that Tenn was upset over this. 

Hoping that Tenn wouldn’t kick him off the moving vehicle and land them both in the hospital, Gaku said, “The person I like is... an annoying brat that seems to derive pleasure from my misery. But he’s charismatic, and a lot of people love him, and he’s always sincere in the way he treats other people. He keeps his feelings to himself so that he doesn’t have to burden those around him, and while I respect him for that, I think it’d be good if he could rely on his teammates more.” 

Tenn stiffened. “Why are you telling me this now?” 

“This is probably not the most romantic place for a confession, is it?” Gaku sighed again. He had no idea what he was even doing, saying something like this out of the blue. “Yeah, the person I like is you. I like Kujo Tenn. I’m not entirely sure when it started, and I’m not sure how I kept falling deeper, but I really like you, Tenn.” 

“...stop the vehicle.” 

“Huh? Did you not hear-” 

Please. I want to walk back home from here. Let me get off.” 

So that’s his reply,  Gaku thought, wondering why Tenn sounded so broken even though he was the one who’d just indirectly rejected  Gaku’s  confession. He'd thought that he should be more upset. “Yeah, okay,” he conceded, bringing the vehicle to a stop at the roadside and letting Tenn get off. “Just for the record, this doesn’t mean that things have to become awkward between us. I just thought that you should know how I feel.” 

Tenn didn’t look at Gaku as he got off, instead nodding in response and beginning to walk in the direction of his house. “Of course it won’t. We’re both pros, aren’t we? We can’t let something like this affect our work. Thanks for the ride and I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

“Goodnight,” Gaku called out, frustratedly running a hand through his hair once Tenn disappeared down the street. “Hah... I really fucked up, didn’t I.” 

 

--- 

 

Tenn kicked his shoes off with a sigh, picking them up and setting them nicely on the shoe rack before calling out, “I’m home.” 

Aya poked her head out from the living room, a sweet but shy smile on her face as usual. “Tenn-oniichan!” she greeted brightly. “Have you eaten yet? I saved some food for you. Kujo-san went out.” 

“I’m not really hungry,” he replied honestly, managing a small smile at his adopted sister. “If Kujo-san asks, please let him know that I’m going to bed early. I’m rather tired today.” 

“...are you okay?” Aya asked hesitantly, noting the redness of Tenn’s eyes. “Did something happen? I’ll be happy to lend a listening ear if you need one.” 

Tenn shook his head. “I’m fine. Don't worry too much about me, and focus on your lessons, alright?” 

“Okay,” she sighed, and Tenn patted her on the head twice before making his way to his room. 

The walk back to the house from where Gaku had dropped him off hadn’t been near, per se, but Tenn’s mind had been so preoccupied with what’d happened that he hadn’t even realised when he’d reached the gates. He felt pathetic, being this affected by something like a confession, when he’d thought he’d long since resigned himself to remaining single. 

“What does that idiot even see in me, seriously...” Tenn chuckled weakly, shutting his door behind him and locking it. He set his bag on the floor, plopping down onto the chair and promptly curling into himself. “What the heck was that...” 

His eyes stung with tears, had been stinging with tears since the walk home. Pulling the mask off, Tenn wiped at his eyes, surprised to find that his cheeks were already wet with tears. He didn’t remember when the last time he cried was; he hadn't cried when he'd left his family, when he'd left Riku, all those years ago. He didn’t even know he was capable of crying. 

Tenn couldn’t afford to let Kujo find out that he was crying, especially not because of something as stupid as love. Kujo didn’t believe that people needed love – unless it was love from the fans. Tenn himself didn’t believe that he deserved to be loved, not after what he’d done to his family. Riku hadn’t been wrong when he said that he abandoned them when he needed them most, even if he’d left only because he’d wanted to help them. 

It'd been fine before, looking at Gaku from afar. He hadn’t done anything in regards to the feelings he had for the leader, thinking that it wouldn’t have been worth his effort anyway. He'd seen Gaku hitting on Tsumugi in the past, and while it’d annoyed him to no end, Tenn had also accepted that Gaku was interested in someone else. It didn’t make sense that he would like Tenn, whom he was always arguing and at loggerheads with. 

Now, though, Tenn couldn’t help but wonder if Gaku had been flirting with Tsumugi on purpose. It wasn’t as if he knew whether or not Gaku flirted with Tsumugi during the times when Tenn wasn’t around, save the first time he’d delivered soba to IDOLiSH7’s office. “He went out of his way to tell me about that, too,” Tenn mumbled, sniffling and trying to blink away the tears. 

Tenn had no idea why he was even crying; he’d known from the beginning, since he’d realised that what he felt for Gaku was more than respect and camaraderie, that there was no chance of a relationship blossoming between them. Even if he set aside the fact that Gaku had flirted with Tsumugi one too many times, Kujo and Sousuke would definitely be against it. 

After all, Tenn was meant to become an idol who would surpass Zero. He couldn’t have a relationship getting in the way of that. And, just like he’d mentioned to Gaku, their contracts did state that they weren’t to be in a relationship as long as they were promoting as TRIGGER. Tenn doubted that Sousuke would budge on that, either. 

“And yet I’m crying,” Tenn laughed bitterly. He'd much rather be crying over his argument with Riku than to cry over his apparently-requited love. It would make more sense than for him to be crying, for the first time in forever, because he couldn’t be together with Gaku. Just over an hour ago, he had never even considered such a possibility. “How pathetic of me.” 

But why does it hurt so much?  

He thought of Riku, who was probably together with Iori, and let out another laugh. His weak younger brother being in a relationship wasn’t something he’d ever considered, either. It was strange to think that Riku now had somebody to protect, and somebody who would protect him, and it wasn’t Tenn. 

“I guess this time it’s Riku who’s getting ahead of me. Fated pairs, huh...” 

Chapter Text

“Ah, my head hurts...”

Mitsuki glanced at Yamato, wincing at the pounding in his head. “Yeah, we definitely drank too much...”

Banri looked between the two with an amused smile, handing each of them a glass of water. It'd been some time since they’d had the time to have a drink together, so Banri couldn’t quite fault them for overdoing it. “Here, have some water. Are you okay?”

“Thank you,” Mitsuki said gratefully, taking the water and downing half of it in one go. They'd continued drinking even after Ryuu had left with Tenn and the soba deliveryman. Mitsuki didn’t really recall falling asleep, only that he’d woken up hunched over the table in the living area across of Yamato. “I’ll be fine in an hour or so. Ah, speaking of which, it seems like Re:vale came by yesterday.”

“Oh?” Banri asked in surprise. He supposed he couldn’t be too shocked, since IDOLiSH7 had been working a lot with Re:vale lately. It was high time for him to face his past; it’d been five years already. “To your dorm?”

Mitsuki nodded. “Yeah. You said you were a fan of Re:vale, so we should’ve remembered that and called you over,” he said, sounding apologetic.

Banri wanted to assure him that it was alright, because he didn’t know how Yuki would react to suddenly seeing him again. The thought of it worried Banri, though he didn’t show it. There wasn’t anything the members of IDOLiSH7 could do about it – it was something that he and Yuki had to work out between themselves. Eventually.

With a small chuckle, Banri said, “Thank you. Maybe next time, then.”

Iori looked at the older omega suspiciously, not oblivious to the change in his scent. He didn’t comment on it, knowing that everyone had their own secrets, and that Banri would tell them if he deemed it necessary. If he was keeping quiet about whatever was bothering him, then that meant that it wasn’t anything consequential, and Iori didn’t have the time or energy to bother about that.

What he was most concerned about now was the fact that his boyfriend had been standing outside the room for the past many minutes, not coming in, brooding by himself and probably trying to put on a smile before entering the room. It would be easy for them to see from his expression that he wasn’t cheerful at all, so Iori had no idea why the alpha was even trying.

They hadn’t talked after Tenn had left the previous night. Riku had gone to his room almost right immediately, locking the door and not letting even Iori inside. Iori didn’t know if he would have been able to comfort Riku, anyway. He hadn’t received an apology from Riku, nor had he asked him for one, and he’d been too bothered by the possibility of Tenn finding out about his secondary gender that he didn’t care.

When he’d woken up, Iori had considered checking in on Riku, but he’d ended up not doing so. It was petty of him to be upset, he knew that, but he couldn’t help thinking that Riku shouldn’t have broken his promise no matter how agitated he’d been. He’d been intending to talk to Riku about it today, but judging from how upset Riku still was, Iori was beginning to think that it wasn’t a good idea.

Still, the longer he didn’t talk to Riku about it, the worse he would feel. He didn’t want to put a strain on their relationship. With a soft sigh, Iori asked, “How is Nanase-san...? He hasn’t come in yet.”

Almost immediately after he asked the question, the door opened, and Riku walked in wearing the fakest smile Iori had ever seen on his alpha. “Good morning!” he greeted with false cheer. Iori wasn’t sure who he was trying to fool. “Everyone! Let’s go full throttle and do our best today, too!”

“Such transparent, fake peppiness...” Yamato commented dryly.

Riku looked at the leader with a frown. “It’s not fake at all! I actually am super pumped right now!” he argued. Nobody was convinced, but Riku continued. “I’m going to do my work perfectly, sing everything the whole way through, and definitely get Tenn-ni- Kujo Tenn to acknowledge me!”

The others still looked at him blankly. “Go on,” Yamato urged.

“Tenn-ni- Kujo Tenn always told me, ever since we were little, don’t do this or don’t do that! All he did was say ‘don’t’ to me!”

“So... have you calmed down after that sibling squabble of yours?”

“Ever since Iori became the centre in my stead, I barely get attacks when we work now!" Riku declared proudly, looking at Iori with the same forced smile. Iori hated it. He wanted to tell Riku that there was no need to put up a front for them, for him. They could see through him, so there really was no point. But Riku was putting up a front because he didn’t want to seem weak, and Iori could respect that much. “I want to show him that I can do it too!”

You don’t have to, Iori sighed inwardly. All I want is for you to apologise for using your alpha voice.

Mitsuki looked at Iori, chuckling when he saw the frown on Iori’s face. The omega always had been easy to read, and right now his concern for Riku was written all over his face. But he could also see that Iori seemed conflicted about something. What exactly that was, Mitsuki didn’t know. “Well, don’t push yourself too hard, Riku,” he reminded gently. “Kujo Tenn is Kujo Tenn, and TRIGGER is TRIGGER. We are who we are, after all.

“There aren’t seven perfect members – instead, we are perfect as seven. When you’re troubled, we’re here to help each other out.”

Riku’s face fell; he knew where the beta was coming from, but he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone anymore. He felt bad enough for relying on Iori for the past few weeks. Iori’s heat was coming up again soon, as was Riku’s rut. He wanted to be able to take over as centre after that, take the burden off Iori’s shoulders. “Mitsuki...”

Yamato whistled in approval. “The things famous emcees say sure are something else!”

Mitsuki snorted, although his cheeks were pink from the praise. “You dumbass, that’s not the case at all! Well, I’m happy to be of use to everyone. I’m still learning the ropes, though!” he said with a grin. “Our new song goes on sale tomorrow! It’ll be nice if we get into the rankings!”

The door to the meeting room opened, and the five occupants turned to see Nagi trudging in. “...good morning,” the blond greeted, sinking onto the couch with a tired sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Mitsuki asked, moving to sit beside Nagi and studying his boyfriend’s face. He hadn’t seen Nagi for the entirety of last night; Nagi had been in his room with Sougo and Re:vale the entire time, and Mitsuki had knocked out in the living area. He had found it a little strange that he’d woken up there, instead of in Nagi’s room. His boyfriend would usually carry him back to his room so that they could sleep together. “You’ve got a real sour look on your face. You're putting all that beauty to waste.”

Sougo and Tamaki walked in through the open door, looking as tired as Nagi was.

“...good morning.”

“...morning.”

“D-did something happen?” Riku asked almost hesitantly. The atmosphere between the three seemed strange at best. It was a common enough occurrence for Tamaki and Sougo to argue, but they rarely ever saw Nagi upset.

Sougo looked at Yamato accusatorily, and the leader raised a questioning brow. “What? Why are you looking at me?”

“...you said you were in Shinbashi...”

A look of understanding flashed across Yamato’s face, and then the beta was sending an apologetic smile in Sougo’s direction. “Ah, sorry about that!” he apologised. “I forgot that Re:vale was pressuring you! But nothing happened in the end, right?”

Sougo gave Yamato a withering look that read: no, that absolutely was not the case.

“I hate Souchan,” Tamaki mumbled. Sougo’s face twisted into a grimace; it never felt good whenever Tamaki said that he hated him. “It’s always don’t do this or don’t do that! All you say is ‘don’t’ to me!”

“Now, now, Tamaki!” Riku chided. “Don’t say something so immature!”

Iori turned to his boyfriend in disbelief. “Nanase-san, what did you say just now?” he questioned, rolling his eyes when Riku simply pursed his lips indignantly in response. “What a hypocrite.”

Tamaki didn’t pay Riku any heed, keeping his gaze on Sougo. “You’re always going on about other people and putting me on the back burner!”

“It couldn’t be helped...” Sougo said with a frown. He'd said it before last night, but he supposed his words had gone in one ear and out the other. “Our senpai, who always take care of us, said that they wanted to eat the pudding.”

“It could’ve been helped!” Tamaki retorted. “Even though you know I love King Pudding, and that it was mine, you prioritised Yukirin and Momorin! I’m your boyfriend and your alpha, but you always put everyone else first! Why can’t you think more about me for once?!”

“That’s why I told you I’d buy some today!” Sougo sighed. “Didn’t I apologise last night?”

Tamaki scoffed. “That’s not the problem! This is about my feelings! Solving everything with money is something a scummy rich guy would do!”

“What-”

Shut up!” Nagi shouted, effectively stunning both of them into silence. “You two were like this last night too, and didn’t listen to me when I told you guys to stop arguing. And then you made my figure fall down! Oh... Kokona, you poor thing... I should’ve expelled these demons from my room sooner...”

Mitsuki offered his boyfriend a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. If he hadn’t been so high on alcohol, he might have been able to help do some damage control. He could already imagine how distraught Nagi had been, to see Kokona fall from one of his shelves.

Sougo hung his head, even though he wasn’t the one who’d accidentally knocked the figure down. “S-sorry, Nagi-kun.”

“Don’t apologise to me, apologise to Kokona!”

“I’m sorry, Kokona-chan...” Sougo glanced at his alpha. “Apologise too, Tamaki-kun.”

“Aren’t you the one who should be apologising to me?!”

“I’ve already apologised countless times yesterday!”

Shut up!” Nagi shouted again. “Please be quiet, you devils!”

“Good morning!” Tsumugi greeted, completely unaware of the happenings of the previous night. She'd left after Riku had disappeared into his room, urging Iori to check on the alpha and make sure that he wasn’t working himself into an attack. “Everyone, Re:vale’s agency said they’d like to discuss the reopening ceremony with us!”

“Discuss?” Riku repeated, confused.

The manager nodded with a pleased smile. “Yes! Re:vale’s 5th anniversary is on the last day of the reopening ceremony, so they want to hold a concert!” she told them. “And they want to have IDOLiSH7 appear as the secret guests!”

“Us, in Re:vale’s concert as secret guests? That sounds really fun!”

Tamaki huffed in displeasure. “As long as we don’t bring pudding,” he grumbled, earning a sigh from his boyfriend. It would take a long time for Tamaki to get over this incident. “Since they’ll eat it.”

“Speaking of which, Mr. Momo said there was a Special Mission, but...”

“Furthermore!” Tsumugi cut Nagi off. She didn’t know how Riku would react to this additional piece of news, so she wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. “It’s not a run-of-the-mill plan for secret guests! For the secret guest live corner, the plan is for you guys to form special units with a certain group and sing with them!”

“A certain group?”

“The group performing on the first day of the reopening ceremony. The group you battled against at last year’s Black or White... TRIGGER!”

 

---

 

Gaku looked at Momo in mild disbelief. “We’re forming special units with IDOLiSH7? I’m surprised my father’s letting us do this...” he muttered, his gaze subconsciously travelling to Tenn’s figure. After what’d happened last night, it wouldn’t be surprising for Tenn to be against this arrangement.

The morning had been awkward for the two of them, even if only slightly. Gaku had talked big, saying that his confession wouldn’t affect the way they acted around each other. Of course it would have had an effect; it was only a matter of how big or small of an effect it would be.

True to his word, though, Tenn hadn’t shown how he felt, apart from when Gaku had walked into the office and the younger had immediately looked away from him. Gaku wasn’t entirely sure if he’d imagined the slight redness of Tenn’s eyes before the younger had turned away. The possibility of Tenn having cried was ludicrous in and of itself, regardless of whether it’d been because of his argument with Riku or because of Gaku’s confession.

After all, Tenn didn’t ever cry.

Apart from the fact that Tenn was still avoiding looking in Gaku’s direction, the centre seemed otherwise fine. That was, until Momo had broken the news of their guest appearance at Re:vale’s anniversary live with IDOLiSH7.

Momo winked. “We did some under-the-table planning!”

“IDOLiSH7...”

Yuki tilted his head to the side curiously. “You don’t want to?”

Tenn shook his head. “No. If it’s for work, then I’ll see it through.”

“So cold,” Yuki commented, “as usual. How lovely.”

Ryuu was the only one who didn’t seem at all taken aback by the sudden news. “It sounds like a fun plan!” he exclaimed excitedly. “I’m happy that we’ll get to dance with those kids!”

Momo turned his attention to the eldest member of TRIGGER. “Ryuu, I watched your drama!” the beta said. “You were super sexy! I got really excited!”

“Ex...cited...?” Ryuu repeated slowly, sounding both shocked and horrified. Understandably so, because the drama had a fair number of erotic scenes. The most recent episode, in particular, had a heavy emphasis on said erotic scenes. Momo’s choice of words were extremely misleading.

If not for the fact that Yuki had been with him while he’d been watching Ryuu’s drama, the alpha would likely already be glowering at a very innocent Ryuu. In hindsight, Momo really should have picked his words more carefully. The beta sent his boyfriend a fond, yet exasperated, look, before turning to Ryuu. “What?” he asked. Sorry, Ryuu. “Is that bad?”

Ryuu stared at Momo for all of two seconds. “Ah, not at all! I am very grateful.”

Momo beamed, glad that they’d managed to get that topic over and done with. He didn’t want Yuki to misunderstand anything. “We have other plans too! We’ll be discussing that at the conference, though!” the beta told them. He turned to Tenn. “Speaking of which, Tenn. I heard your Papa’s here in Japan?”

Tenn stared blankly at Momo, not giving him any sort of an answer. Gaku looked at Tenn curiously. He'd been wondering about what kind of person Kujo was exactly, because neither he nor Ryuu had ever had the chance to meet Tenn’s adoptive father. Sousuke had met him before, but only once or twice, and Gaku wanted to know why his father held Kujo in such high respect. “Hey, Kujo’s here?” he asked.

Tenn gave him as much of a response as he’d given Momo, and Gaku sighed in response. He couldn’t understand why Tenn was so adamant about not letting them meet Kujo. “Just let us meet him already.”

“Just what are you to me?” Tenn retorted, and Gaku had to suppress a wince. Sure, he had been the one who’d said that nothing had to change in the way they treated each other, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt to hear Tenn be this cold to him. “My fiancé of five years, or what?”

“That’s a low blow,” Gaku hissed in a low voice. Tenn simply shrugged, and Gaku continued, “It’s because you hide everything about your private life from us! Aren’t we your teammates?”

Yuki leaned in to Ryuu. “What’s up with them?”

“They’ve been arguing since last night.”

“Oooh, lovers’ spat?” Momo chimed in in a whisper.

Ryuu sighed under his breath. “If only they could get that far.”

“Huh,” Yuki mused. “I’ve always thought they were.”

“Momo-san,” Tenn called out, snapping the trio out of their conversation, “you mentioned other plans?”

Momo nodded easily, as if he hadn’t just been having a discussion regarding Tenn and Gaku’s lack of a romantic relationship. Even Ryuu was surprised by how quickly Momo switched from one topic to the other. “It’s related to the legendary idol Zero, whom Zero Arena is named after.”

 

---

 

Gaku sighed, walking down the corridor alongside Anesagi. The two of them, as well as Tsumugi and Yamato, had been invited to Re:vale’s agency for a discussion regarding the anniversary concert.

It would’ve been fine and all, but Gaku was still slightly hung up over the misunderstanding that Tenn had had regarding him and Tsumugi. It was his fault, Gaku acknowledged that much. That didn’t mean it wasn’t awkward to have to face her again after that.

“Good morning,” Anesagi greeted. “It looks like you’re all prepared.”

Tsumugi bowed in greeting. “Good morning! I look forward to working with you today!”

Gaku nodded, managing a smile. “Yeah.”

“I’m so happy that TRIGGER and IDOLiSH7 will be working together! It’s just like a dream come true!” the beta exclaimed. She bowed again. “I’m sorry if we cause you any trouble, but please take care of us!”

Gaku stared at Tsumugi, trying to think of how best to respond, and the beta fidgeted nervously. “Ah... O-of course, we’ll do our best not to cause you any trouble!”

“You’re so diligent,” Gaku settled on eventually. He hadn’t meant to make her feel uncomfortable, but it was difficult to face her without thinking about Tenn. He didn’t think he was doing very well, though; to even himself, he sounded like he was still trying to hit on her.

Tsumugi’s wide-eyed stare reflected those exact thoughts. “Huh...?”

“That side of you, it’s not bad,” Gaku continued. He sincerely hoped that Tenn wouldn’t appear out of nowhere and overhear their conversation. He didn’t want to hear Tenn sound like that ever again, and he definitely didn’t want to be the cause of it.

“T-thank you very much! It’s all because everyone works so earnestly!”

With a small chuckle, one that Gaku hoped didn’t sound too forced, he said, “I look forward to working with you too.”

Yamato cut in between the two suddenly, and Gaku stared at IDOLiSH7’s leader. “Now, hold up,” the beta said. Gaku wondered if even Yamato had misunderstood the entire situation between him and Tsumugi. He couldn’t even blame Yamato if he had. He had brought it upon himself. “Can you stop hitting on our manager?”

Of course, Gaku sighed inwardly. He watched as Tsumugi flushed. “Y-Yamato-san...”

“You too,” Yamato scolded, now looking at Tsumugi disapprovingly. Gaku thought he looked a little bit like an overprotective father. “Try not to get involved with shady guys, alright? Gosh, you’re about to fall over...”

“Hey, what do you mean by that?” Gaku demanded, genuinely offended by the implication that he was a shady guy. It didn’t help at all that Yamato sent him a raised brow, as if he didn’t believe Gaku at all.

“Either way, you’re just playing around, and flashily so.”

“I do not!” Gaku protested. This, too, had been his own doing. Gaku knew that, and he honestly had nobody to blame but himself. He just hoped Anesagi didn’t also get any wrong ideas about what had been going on between him and Tsumugi for the past few months. Or, worse, between him and any other random human being on the street.

Either he’d sounded convincing enough, or Yamato hadn’t truly believed his public image as a playboy, because the beta looked at him incredulously. “What!? You don’t!?” he questioned in disbelief. “If you’re not going to fool around with women, then who will! Apologise to all the men out there who dream of having a harem!”

Gaku blinked. Maybe he’d interpreted Yamato’s tone wrongly. The beta was an actor, after all. “I... I apologise...?” the alpha said unsurely, not knowing if that was what Yamato had been expecting. He had no idea what he was even apologising for, only that Yamato had demanded him to.

Yamato smiled in satisfaction. “It’s good if you understand. Let’s go, Manager.”

“Y-yes...”

“Hey, wait!” Gaku called out. “Why do I have to apologise!?”

 

---

 

“I apologise for making you wait!” Rinto exclaimed, rushing into the corridor with Momo and Yuki trailing slowly behind him. The four who’d been waiting turned to look at them as they entered, and Tsumugi’s face lit up.

“Re:vale!”

Yuki smiled, the type of smile that would make anyone’s heart skip a beat. “Sorry for the wait,” the alpha apologised, walking up to Tsumugi and extending a hand to her. Momo watched his boyfriend in mild amusement, knowing fully well that he was teasing Tsumugi. “I’ll escort you, as an apology.”

“Ah...”

Yuki glanced at Yamato briefly, his smile becoming a sly one. Momo bit back a laugh. “Aren’t you tired of looking at this bespectacled man by now?” he asked, leaning down towards Tsumugi. “How about someone grown-up, and a classic ikemen?”

Tsumugi flushed, her cheeks turning a bright red. “P-please don’t get too close to my face!” she requested, clearly embarrassed by the close proximity between her and Yuki. “I don’t think my heart can handle it...!”

“Stop hitting on her!” Yamato and Gaku exclaimed in unison.

Yamato gave Gaku an accusatory look, and Gaku wanted to hit his head against the wall. It wasn’t wrong for Yamato to be protective of their manager, but it was getting a little annoying to be misunderstood. He hadn’t told Yuki not to hit on Tsumugi because he liked her.

It was only because he’d been doing the exact same thing that Yuki was doing – hitting on Tsumugi without any real intent behind it. He felt terrible for playing with her feelings like that, and he wasn’t even attached. It was just that he had feelings for someone else already.

He knew as well as the rest of them that Yuki was with Momo, so for him to be hitting on Tsumugi was completely unacceptable. The fact that Momo was just watching Yuki with a small smile on his face confused Gaku. It was almost as if Momo had complete confidence that Yuki would never cheat on him with Tsumugi.

Of course, what Gaku didn’t know was that Momo did have that confidence. After all, he’d never had to worry about fighting another beta for Yuki’s love and affection, whether they were male or female. He’d never seen alphas as love rivals, either. Heck, Momo didn’t even worry about omegas.

Not unless said omega was Ban.

Turning to Anesagi with a bright grin, Momo declared, “Then I’ll escort Kaoru-chan!”

“Oh?” Anesagi asked with a smirk. “Not bad. I’d be happier if you were a blond-haired blue-eyed beauty, though.”

Momo’s smile widened. “Oh! Sorry about that. But I'm a pretty charming guy, wouldn’t you say?”

Kaoru chuckled. “Indeed, one of the most,” she agreed. Then, with a wink, she added, “Thoughtful, too.”

“Let’s see...” Rinto looked at the two leaders with a smile. “Then, I shall be escorting Yaotome-san and Nikaidou-san! Your hand, if I may?”

Gaku couldn’t help but think of his botched confession, and of the fact that he would likely never hold Tenn’s hand. Tenn’s harsh rejection had made it crystal clear that he didn’t want to get into a relationship, much less one with Gaku. The thought was nearly enough to put a scowl on Gaku's face, but he managed to maintain a neutral expression.

Looking at Yamato, Gaku realised that Yamato’s expression was similar to his own. The two leaders both heaved a soft sigh. “That doesn’t make me happy at all...”

 

---

 

Momo stood at the head of the table, clapping his hands together once to get everyone’s attention.

“Thanks for coming today!” the beta said. “We're all here, so I’d like to start immediately! I might just dance during the conference!”

Yuki hid a snicker behind his hand. He always was easily amused by whatever Momo said, whether or not everyone else found it funny. Sometimes Yuki thought that it was because Momo had been the one to bring joy back into his life, the one who’d taught him how to smile and laugh again. Clearing his throat before he spoke, Yuki said, “The correct quote is: The Congress dances, but does not progress.”

"But if we don’t make progress that’ll be bad! Just whose quote is that!”

“An old Frenchman from 200 years ago, who was angered by the fact that the meeting did not make any progress.”

“Is he still mad?”

Yuki shrugged. “As if I’d know.”

Rinto rolled his eyes, long used to the strange way in which Yuki and Momo interacted. “Enough with the husband and wife act for now,” he told them, pulling a few pieces of paper out of the manila folder he’d brought with him. “Here is the document detailing the special units for the secret guest corner. What do you think?”

“Tenn, Riku, and Iori. Gaku, Yamato, Mitsuki, and Nagi. Ryuu, Sougo, and Tamaki.”

Gaku stared blankly at the document, as if simply staring at it would change the groupings listed in black and white. He had no qualms at all with neither his nor Ryuu’s units. Tenn’s, though... Gaku found that he couldn’t quite figure out what to make of it.

Aside from the ever-present problem that was the rocky relationship between the twins, Gaku couldn’t help thinking of the revelation they’d made that night. If Riku and Iori truly were a fated pair, as they’d thought, putting them in one unit with Tenn was probably not the best idea. Already Gaku could imagine what would happen if Tenn and Iori got into an argument during practices.

But this wasn’t TRIGGER’s concert; it was Re:vale’s, and there had to be a good reason why the duo had decided on the units as such. If Yamato didn’t say anything, then Gaku wouldn’t. “It’s Re:vale’s fifth anniversary. We'll do it however you guys want to do it.”

“I don’t have any objections either.”

Yamato glanced at Tsumugi, sharing Gaku’s concerns but not wanting to discuss it in front of everyone else. He wasn’t only worried about Riku and Iori getting found out by Tenn – things wouldn’t go down well if Riku was caught in between the two of them, and that was more than likely going to happen. He was also concerned about Tamaki and Sougo being found out, as well as Nagi and Mitsuki, though he didn’t think TRIGGER was the type to expose them to the public.

Tsumugi shook her head, ever-so-slightly, to indicate that Yamato shouldn’t raise any objections. They’d just have to be more careful with keeping their relationships secret, or at least ensure that their secrets were safe with the members of TRIGGER. “None from us either, right?”

“None at all! I’m excited that we’ll get to see these units on stage!” Tsumugi exclaimed. “By the way, you mentioned that there was another plan as well?”

“For the last part of the concert, we were thinking of covering one of Zero’s songs,” Yuki replied.

“Is it that hit song?”

Nodding, Yuki said, “Yeah. Pre-orders open for the single during the reopening ceremony. After that, it’ll be properly released. It'll be used in a CM for Zero Arena, too. I believe it’ll be broadcast in a few days from now.”

Yuki paused, pursing his lips. “No one has covered that song, even though it was such a big hit, because Zero’s presence is just too fast. Zero still has very dedicated fans. We might get backlash...”

“If Re:vale are the ones covering the song, then no one should have any problems with it,” Gaku said. If there was anyone who was remotely near Zero’s level of charisma and popularity, it was Re:vale. They couldn’t have won at Black or White for consecutive years if they didn’t have at least that much.

“Thank you.”

“...so you’re going to touch upon Zero’s works?” Yamato asked with a raised brow. “How daring.”

“We're not going into this with the intent of surpassing Zero, though.”

“Zero Arena, where Zero last sang, is getting renewed,” Momo said, wearing a determined look on his face. “We just want to sing one of his songs there. He has so many good songs – it'd be a waste if no one ever sang them again.”

Yuki nodded in agreement, clearly having discussed this with his boyfriend before. “If all we did was cower in fear of opposition, then we wouldn’t be able to do anything – including telling our kouhai to take a leap of courage,” he said, pointedly looking at Yamato as he did so.

Yamato didn’t reply, and Gaku looked at IDOLiSH7’s leader curiously, but otherwise said nothing. “That’s just like Re:vale. You guys have helped TRIGGER a lot, so we’ll be cooperating on all fronts,” he said. Tenn probably won’t be happy with the unit arrangement, though.

“Thank you!”

“Until the day of the event, I humbly ask for your cooperation,” Rinto said.

Tsumugi beamed and nodded. “We look forward to working with you!”

“Everyone, ready your hands!” Momo exclaimed suddenly.

“W-what are we doing?”

“We shall be engaging in a celebratory cheer!”

Snorting, Yuki asked, “What are you, an old man?”

“I don’t want to hear that from you, darling,” Momo retorted, sticking his tongue out at Yuki. He held a hand out, urging the others to stack their hands above his. “Re:vale, TRIGGER, and IDOLiSH7 – RTI for short! May we have great, great, great, great, great success! Let’s go!”

Chapter Text

The director knocked on the door, poking his head into the waiting room. He smiled satisfactorily and called out, “Good work today, MEZZO!”

“Thank you,” Sougo replied, bowing politely to the director. “I look forward to working with you again.”

He turned to Tamaki only to see that the alpha was already picking his belongings up. The omega frowned; it’d been about four days since the incident with Tamaki’s puddings, and still the younger was upset. “Tamaki-kun. Um...”

“I’ll be heading out first,” Tamaki said curtly, not even looking at Sougo before he walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

Sougo sighed, sitting down at the dresser and packing his things into his bag. He supposed it was too much to expect Tamaki to forgive him so quickly, considering it was his fault for ever allowing Yuki and Momo to eat all ten puddings. It didn’t mean that it was any less tiring to be so blatantly ignored by Tamaki the moment their schedule ended. “That attitude...” Sougo muttered.

It took him all of five minutes to finish packing, and then Sougo was on his way back to the dorm.

He greeted various staff members on the way out of the studio, sighing again as he exited the building. It was only a fifteen-minute walk or so back to the dorm, so he didn’t see a need to take a cab, especially since he was alone. “I wonder if Tamaki-kun actually went home...”

“Excuse me...” a young girl, no older than sixteen, spoke up, causing Sougo to startle. She'd been leaning against the wall and using her phone, and he hadn’t expected her to suddenly speak to him. “Are you Ousaka Sougo from MEZZO?”

“...yes,” Sougo answered unsurely. He looked the girl over, stiffening when he realised that she was an alpha. Suddenly, taking a cab seemed like the much better option. It was a good thing that he was wearing scent neutralisers, though it would’ve been even better if Tamaki hadn’t left without him. “Were you... waiting for someone? It's dangerous for young girls like you to be out at night this late.”

“My dad is nearby, so it’s okay,” she assured with a small smile. Her gaze remained on the empty space beside Sougo, where Tamaki usually walked beside him, an almost disappointed look written all over her face. “Um... Is Yotsuba Tamaki-san...”

Sougo blinked. It wasn’t unusual for fans to look for Tamaki, but there was something different about the way the girl carried herself. She didn’t seem at all like one of the usual fans who followed them around between schedules. “Did you come here to meet Tamaki-kun? He went home before me.”

“I see...” she mumbled. “Is he well?”

“Ah, yes, he is...” Sougo replied.

The girl managed a smile. “That’s good to hear. That's all I needed to know.”

This girl... her presence resembles that of Tamaki-kun's... Sougo frowned slightly, only now noticing that the girl’s scent was similar to that of his alpha. That, and her blue eyes and hair really reminded him of Tamaki. His eyes widened in realisation. Could it be...

“Sorry, but are you an acquaintance of Tamaki-kun's?” he asked, hoping that he wasn’t about to scare her off. “If you don’t mind, may I get your name?”

As expected, the girl sucked in a sharp breath, like she hadn’t thought that Sougo would ask that. “Don’t be afraid. If there’s something you’d like to tell him, I'll pass it on to him,” he offered. The last thing he needed was for her to run away from him.

“No,” she replied. “If he’s well, then it’s fine. I'll be off.”

The girl turned to leave, and Sougo instinctively reached out to grab her arm. “Wait! Are you...” he bit his lip, hoping that his guess was right. It'd been over four months since their win at Black or White, and Tamaki still hadn’t managed to find his sister.  “Are you Yotsuba Aya-chan?”

Eyes wide, the girl pulled her hand out of Sougo’s grip. “Y-you’re wrong! Don’t tell anyone you met with me!” she demanded, and Sougo winced at the push in her voice. He didn’t know if she was doing it intentionally or if she simply hadn’t learnt to properly control it yet, but it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

He managed to ask, “Why?”

“Just don’t!” the girl repeated. “If you do, then I’ll jump!”

“Jump!? From where!?”

“From somewhere high where I’ll die if I do so!” she snapped back frantically. “Now if you’ll excuse me!”

“Wait-!” Sougo called out, but already the girl was running off. “She dropped something...”

There was a keychain on the floor where she’d been standing, and Sougo bent down to pick it up. “A clover-shaped keyholder...? Tamaki-kun has the exact same one on his bag. Isn’t she Aya-chan, then...?” the omega pondered aloud, feeling both excited and dejected at the same time. After all this time, he’d finally found Aya, and yet Tamaki hadn’t been here with him. “If only he wasn’t still upset...”

Even worse, she’d just threatened to jump off a building if he ever told anyone that they’d seen each other. It didn’t make it any better that she’d basically commanded him not to do so. He didn’t have to obey her, since the influence of an alpha’s voice didn’t last for extended periods of time, but she’d been desperate enough that she’d ended up using her alpha voice on him. That had to mean something.

But Sougo could also imagine how betrayed and hurt Tamaki would be if, when, he eventually found out that Sougo had run into Aya and not told him about it. The circumstances that led to Sougo keeping a secret from him wouldn’t matter to Tamaki; all he would focus on was the fact that Sougo had kept his meeting Aya a secret.

Logically, Sougo could understand why Tamaki would think that. Still, that didn’t mean he could simply dismiss Aya’s threat. He didn’t know what he was to do if she actually did follow through with her threat. He certainly didn’t want to indirectly cause Aya’s death.

With heavy feet, Sougo continued making his way home. He tucked the keyholder into his bag, the frown never leaving his face the entire way home.

 

---

 

Nagi yawned, rubbing his eyes groggily and looking up at Mitsuki, who was shrugging a coat on. He looked at the clock, noting that it was barely past eight in the morning. As far as Nagi knew, Mitsuki didn’t have any work till evening. “Mitsuki, where are you going?”

Mitsuki jumped, turning to look at the alpha while holding a hand over his chest. “Oh, Nagi! Sorry, did I wake you up?” he asked sheepishly. He went over to the bed, sitting down and leaning in to press a chaste kiss to his boyfriend’s cheek. “I finally have some free time, so I figured I’d go shopping!”

Oh! You’ve been in popular demand lately, Mitsuki!” Nagi exclaimed delightedly, sitting up and pulling Mitsuki into his embrace. It was nice to be able to wake up to the sight of a happy Mitsuki; even if he’d just woken up, Nagi was already feeling pumped up for the rest of the day. “You smell nice. Did you just shower? I'm glad to see that you’re in great condition.”

“Mmm, maybe?” Mitsuki chuckled into Nagi’s chest. “I’m happy too. Instead of being a dead weight, I’m finally able to be of use to everyone.”

Oh... I’ve never thought of you as dead weight.” Even without looking up, Mitsuki could imagine the frown on his boyfriend’s face. “Though I think I could probably lift you, Mitsuki.”

This time, Mitsuki hit Nagi lightly on the arm. “Shut it, you!” he laughed. He pulled back from the hug to look at Nagi. “I don’t know how to put it, but that’s not it. It's fine if I’m not number one; I don’t have to be popular either. I know very well that both are impossible for me.”

Nagi’s face fell almost immediately. “Mitsuki...”

“But instead of depending on Riku’s singing or your face or the others’ abilities... I wanted to help everyone out, through my own power,” Mitsuki said with conviction. “Right now, from the bottom of my heart, I can say with confidence... that I’m IDOLiSH7’s Mitsuki.

“I feel like I can finally say it now. Hey, Nagi. Am I useful, to everyone?”

“Of course,” Nagi replied instantly, returning Mitsuki’s kiss with one to the lips. “You always have been.”

Mitsuki laughed again, sounding a little more cheerful this time. “I’m glad!” he said, getting up and grabbing his bag from the floor. “I’ll be on my way now! I’m going to splurge and treat myself! I'll see you tonight, okay? There's breakfast on the table if you’re hungry.”

“Have fun, and have a safe trip!”

The beta left the dorm, making his way over to Harajuku to do some shopping.

He took the bus there, listening to the radio as he watched the scenery outside the window. It was nice to be able to relax after weeks of endless schedules. Whenever he’d had off days in the past few weeks, he’d gone to help out at Fonte Chocolat. Valentines’, White Day, and then April Fools’, was always a busy period for their bakery.

It was only a short ride to the shopping district, and Mitsuki thanked the driver as he got off. He walked into the nearest clothing store, not wanting to waste a single minute of his precious spare time. “It sure has been a while since I last went shopping,” Mitsuki said to himself, sifting through the racks of clothes in front of him. “I kind of want a new jacket!”

“Hey, did you watch A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7 last night?”

Mitsuki stopped what he was doing immediately, shifting further towards the corner of the store in an attempt to hide himself. He didn’t know why exactly he felt the need to hide, but he felt like he wouldn’t be able to hear the girl’s honest thoughts if she knew that he was in the store.

“I did!” her friend replied. “It was really funny this week too! I can’t wait until next week’s episode!”

“Ah... they’ve watched our show!” Mitsuki whispered excitedly, randomly grabbing a plain jacket off the nearest rack and bringing it to the cashier. The smile that stretched involuntarily across his face was wide. “I’ll tell everyone about this when I get back. What a coincidence, bumping into fans here...”

“But wasn’t Mitsuki really annoying?”

Mitsuki froze, dropping his smile almost instantly when he heard the girl’s words. The tone of the girl’s voice wasn’t that of simple dislike – she sounded almost as if she despised him.  “Even though he’s not the centre, he tries to run the whole thing by himself. I want the other members to talk too, but he’s the one talking all the time.”

“I totally get you,” the other girl responded, sounding incredibly frustrated. “Enough of Mitsuki. I want to see the camera on Riku more.”

“He really just doesn’t get it. He's not even popular.”

Swallowing past the lump in his throat, Mitsuki pulled his cap further down to cover his face. The last thing he needed was for the two girls to realise that he was less than five metres away from them. Tears stung at his eyes, and Mitsuki hurried to wipe them away.

A store employee came up to him, then, gesturing at the jacket still in Mitsuki’s hand. “Hello, sir. Would you like to look at this in a different colour?” he asked politely. When Mitsuki didn’t reply, simply staring blankly at the ground, he tried again. “Sir...? Ah, could it be... are you IDOLiSH7’s Izumi Mitsuki-san?”

“...no, that’s not me,” he replied immediately in a shaky voice.

“But...”

“That’s not me,” he repeated, more firmly this time, “you’ve got the wrong person.”

He handed the jacket back to the employee hastily, making sure he didn’t accidentally make eye contact with the man, and laughed awkwardly. “I’m not... someone like him...”

“Sir...?”

“E-excuse me!” he exclaimed, hurrying past the two girls out of the store and hoping that they didn’t notice who he was. He absolutely did not want the girls to know that he’d heard every single word they’d said about him.

He pulled his cap down even further, pulling a mask out of his bag and putting it over his face so that nobody could see the way his cheeks were flushed in embarrassment. The tears that had gathered in his eyes threatened to spill over, and he quickly made his way to the nearest restroom.

Entering an empty stall, Mitsuki slammed the door shut, sitting down on the closed lid of the toilet and pulling his knees up to his chest. Already he could feel the first of the tears streaming down his cheek. In all his years of aspiring to become an idol, he’d never once thought that he would overhear fans talking about him like that.

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t been talked badly of before – honestly, it was something he’d gotten accustomed to throughout his three years of high school. Being one of the shortest in his grade, as well as being a beta, had made him an easy target to make fun of. His cheerful personality meant he had friends, but it also meant that there were a number of people who thought that he was being too fake.

He supposed he should’ve gotten used to it by now, but with how popular IDOLiSH7 had gotten in the past months, Mitsuki had thought that fans would start to like him more. Fellow hosts liked him well enough, but clearly that didn’t translate into popularity with their fans.

Mitsuki had dreamt that he would one day have to hide from fans because he’d gotten too popular; he hadn’t ever considered the possibility of running away because he was afraid of being mocked. Just an hour ago, he’d been elated at the fact that he was finally of use to IDOLiSH7.

With a sigh, Mitsuki curled further into himself. “I couldn’t even say it...” he chuckled pathetically, thinking about the words he’d said to Nagi just before leaving the dorm. “I’m IDOLiSH7’s Mitsuki – I couldn’t even say it at all...! I’m so ashamed...”

 

---

 

Riku turned the TV off, flopping onto his beanbag with a soft huff. “I’m so tired,” he mumbled.

He hadn’t been nearly as busy as when he’d been the centre, but not being the centre came with its own stress, the main one being that he needed to recover as quickly as possible. Iori wasn’t putting any pressure on him, nor was anyone else – the stress he was feeling was all him.

And he still felt terrible that Iori was still covering for him. It had been exactly a month since Iori had taken over as centre, and after what Tenn had said to him a few days ago, Riku wasn’t entirely sure that he would be able to properly take his position back from Iori.

The alpha shook his thoughts away. “That’s no good. I can’t say that I’m tired, not during this time period,” he frowned. “I’m glad Iori became the centre in my stead. I’ve got to think of something to thank him...

“I know Tenn-nii said I wasn’t suited for this line of work, but... but I really love doing this. Maybe I’m being selfish...” he sighed. “I’ll stop thinking about it. I have to get better soon...”

He glanced at his phone as it lit up with a Twitter notification, and Riku exclaimed, “Ah! I’ll just go see what people think about our song on the internet!”

Riku logged into IDOLiSH7’s official fan page, going straight to the live chatroom and scrolling down to see the latest comments. “What’s this? Um... ‘It’s best if they kept Iori-kun as centre, instead of Riku’...” he read aloud, brows furrowing into a frown. “... ‘IDOLiSH7 feels more complete, more perfect now that Iori Izumi is centre’... ‘As a direct result of switching the centre to Iori, their newest single is a top seller, ever since their debut’...”

His eyes widened when a new comment popped up at the bottom of the screen. “‘Nanase... doesn’t need to switch back’...” Riku mumbled, feeling a familiar tightness in his chest as his breaths began to come in pants.

It was only another few seconds before Riku started to wheeze. “No... I’m not this weak...” he murmured, clenching his shaking hands into fists in an attempt to keep them still. “Hah... My body... stop shaking...”

He looked around his room for something that would be able to help him calm down. He caught sight of one of his sweaters hanging over the back of his chair – it was one of the few that he usually lent to Iori during his heats, which was due to come in a little less than a month. “...Iori...” Riku wheezed out. “I have to thank Iori properly...! I'll buy him something, as thanks...”

Painful coughs wracked through his body, and Riku clutched at his chest, desperate to stop his coughing fit before it became a full-blown attack. He couldn’t help but think that if only Iori hadn’t taken over as the centre, the fans would never have had any reason to think that Riku wasn’t suited to be the centre. There would never have been a need for any sort of comparison between him and Iori, and certainly no need for Iori to possibly remain as the centre forever.

If even the fans think that Iori is better suited to be the centre than me... maybe Tenn-nii was right after all, Riku couldn’t help but think. He'd been adamant about the fact that IDOLiSH7 needed him, but now it seemed like he’d been mistaken. He wondered if Iori’d ever had the same thoughts as the fans who’d posted those comments.

“Tenn-nii... it’s painful...” Riku coughed out, tears leaking out from the corners of his eyes. “Both having a replacement... and having no replacement... It’s painful...”

 

---

 

Momo hummed as he went back to his apartment, just having returned from a convenience store run to pick up some food and drinks for Yuki and himself. It was one of their rare days off, and the couple usually spent it in either one of their homes watching movies or having sex.

They had the option to go out, and it wasn’t all that difficult to behave like they usually did while outside on a date, but there were differences in the way they behaved in public and in private. Fans were more than used to seeing the duo openly flirt with each other, be it onscreen or offscreen, but it was tiring to have to put up such a cheerful front all the time.

It was much easier to be in the privacy of their homes, where Momo wasn’t expected to always be jovial and excitable. He enjoyed curling up against Yuki while they watched whatever movie they’d picked for the day, enjoyed the comfortable silence shared between two people who’d known each other for over five years and been together for almost three.

Yuki never minded the silence; he knew fully well that Momo wasn’t tireless, unlike what the vast majority of people thought. The beta was able to be upbeat and energetic in front of others, even if he was exhausted and pushing himself past his limit. It was only when he was alone with Yuki that he would let his guard down, allow himself to rely on the alpha, so Yuki never complained when Momo was quiet after a long week of work.

And it was calming to have Yuki nuzzle his cheek every now and then throughout the movie, with the occasional stolen kiss or playful nips at his ear. Momo was proud to be the only one who was able to see this side of Yuki, and he cherished every moment of it.

He pushed the door open, calling out, “Darling, I got snacks!”

Kicking the door shut behind him and setting the two bags down on the counter, Momo looked into the living room to see what Yuki was doing. “Oh, he’s talking to someone on the phone...” Momo said, starting to set aside the stuff he’d bought while waiting for Yuki to be done with his call.

“Ah, I see,” he heard Yuki say. “So, you couldn’t find him, no matter where you looked?”

Momo felt himself pale; he knew who exactly Yuki was looking for. There could only be one person whom Yuki could be looking for.

There was a period of silence, and Momo supposed that the person on the other end was speaking. It was a good half a minute later that Yuki finally spoke again. “I don’t care what you do, or how much you spend. Please, just find him for me,” Yuki requested. Momo had only heard him sound this desperate once: when the lights had fallen on Ban five years ago. “Before the fifth anniversary concert.”

“...Yuki...” Momo muttered, sneaking out of the kitchen despite not having put everything away yet. He went into his room, closing the door with much more force than he’d originally intended to. He slid down against the door, hugging his knees to his chest and wondering why Yuki was suddenly so eagerly looking for Ban again.

It was only after a quick glance at the calendar on his wall that Momo realised. “Ah, right...” Momo chuckled bitterly. There was no way he could’ve forgotten the terms with which he’d joined Re:vale, and he couldn’t even blame Yuki for it. The one who’d suggested those very terms were him. “He promised to, within that time limit...”

Momo jumped when a knock sounded on the door behind him. “Momo? You're back, aren’t you?”

The beta took a steadying breath, not wanting to sound like he was on the verge of tears, and wiped at his eyes in case tears had formed. “Yes! You’re done with your call already?” he asked, already getting up from his position on the floor and opening the door for Yuki. “Sorry, I didn’t want to disturb.”

“You wouldn’t have disturbed me,” Yuki chuckled, pulling Momo to him by the waist and pressing a kiss to his forehead. When Yuki moved back to study Momo’s face, he frowned. “Are you tired? You don’t look very well.”

“I’m perfectly fine,” Momo replied, with what he hoped was an assuring smile. “There was just a queue at the store, and a few fans spotted me. I just can’t get a break, huh?”

“It’s because you’re so popular,” Yuki said proudly, taking Momo’s hand and leading him back to the couch. The movie they’d decided on was already downloaded on Momo’s computer, hooked up to the TV and ready to play. “Sit down first. I'll go and grab the snacks. Juice or beer?”

Momo contemplated drinking beer, but he knew that he could sometimes get brutally honest when drunk, and the last thing he needed was to tell Yuki about all his insecurities. “Juice please,” he said. “I think I have carrot juice.”

“One glass of carrot juice, coming right up.”

While waiting for Yuki to get back from the kitchen, Momo glanced at Yuki’s phone. He wanted to check Yuki’s call log, save the number of the person who was helping Yuki look for Ban, and tell him to stop the search immediately. But he couldn’t do that to Yuki, not when he’d heard the longing in Yuki’s voice. It was just hard to believe that even now, the alpha was fixated on finding his missing old partner.

It wasn’t as if Momo expected Yuki to just stop looking for Ban, simply because he knew it just how much Ban meant to Yuki. He just didn’t want to admit that he was afraid of losing Yuki to Ban. But Yuki was Ban’s in the first place, Momo thought miserably. I’m just his replacement.

“-mo. Momo.”

The beta flinched at the touch of the cold glass against his cheek. “A-ah. Sorry I spaced out.”

Yuki furrowed his brows, visibly concerned about his boyfriend. “Maybe we should skip the movie. How about just we just spend the afternoon lazing in bed? If you’re tired, we can just nap. I’ll even make dinner for you,” he offered.

Momo shook his head quickly. “I’m fine, Yuki. Really.”

“No, you’re not,” Yuki sighed, setting the juice down on the table and holding his arms out. “I’ll carry you to bed. Come here.”

Despite how crappy he was feeling, Momo couldn’t help but chuckle. “You know you can’t do that, honey,” Momo pointed out. “You’re going to hurt yourself trying, and you’re going to drop me and then I’ll get hurt. And after that, Okarin is going to hurt both of us because we let ourselves get hurt.”

A smile made its way onto Yuki’s face. “That’s the Momo I know,” he cooed. “I know something’s bothering you, and I know you don’t want to tell me what it is, and that’s fine. I mean, I’d prefer if you told me what the problem is, but everybody has something they keep to themselves. Just, tell me when you’re comfortable to open up about it, okay?”

Momo bit his lower lip, eventually sighing and nodding. “I will. Let’s just watch the movie.”

“Okay,” Yuki agreed, making himself comfortable on the couch and handing the glass of carrot juice to Momo. “Your juice.”

The beta thanked his boyfriend, nestling into Yuki’s side and sighing softly. He was glad that Yuki wasn’t pushing him for an explanation, understanding as Yuki always was. It probably had to do with the fact that Yuki had a number of secrets of his own – Momo shoved those thoughts aside.

They started the movie, making small comments about it every now and then. Every time Yuki bent down to brush his lips against Momo’s, the beta felt a guilty pang in his chest. He felt like a terrible human, and an even worse boyfriend, for not wanting Ban to be found.

I’m sorry, Yuki. I love Bansan too, but I just can’t bear the thought of losing you.

 

---

 

Nagi sighed as he walked over to their usual meeting room. It was early, he was tired, and he hadn’t seen Mitsuki since morning the day before.

Mitsuki hadn’t returned by the time Nagi’d had to leave for his photoshoot in the afternoon, and Nagi had returned before Mitsuki’s evening schedule had ended. He had been expecting Mitsuki to come by his room once he’d showered, but the beta never did.

And when Nagi went to check on his boyfriend a little before midnight, he’d found Mitsuki’s door locked.

Nagi had found it odd, because Mitsuki almost never locked his door, in the event that Nagi wanted to use his personal theatre room or just go into Mitsuki’s room for one reason or another. It wasn’t as if Mitsuki particularly minded the lack of privacy, either – he'd long gotten used to that.

For his room to have been locked was strange enough. It was even stranger that instead of opening the door when Nagi knocked on it, Mitsuki had sent the alpha a string of texts:

Leave me alone for tonight. I'm tired.

I'll see you at the morning meeting tomorrow. There’s cereal in the fridge, so I won’t make breakfast.

Goodnight.

And then, as if it was an afterthought:

Please don’t ask any questions. Sorry.

The blond would’ve pushed harder for an explanation, but it wasn’t at all like Mitsuki to shut Nagi out so completely. Nagi could only assume that something had happened when Mitsuki had gone shopping in the morning. If Mitsuki wasn’t a beta, Nagi would at least be able to tell what was wrong from his scent.

Ultimately, though, Nagi had decided to leave his boyfriend alone. Whatever'd happened, it had to have been bad enough for Mitsuki to lock himself up in his room. He'd thought to ask Iori about it, but he doubted even the omega would know. They both knew how prideful and stubborn Mitsuki could be.

Nagi was snapped out of his thoughts when the door to the meeting room opened, and Mitsuki trudged in, not once meeting Nagi’s concerned gaze as he went over to sit on the couch. “...Mitsuki, did something happen?”

“Nothing at all,” the beta replied, too quickly not to be suspicious, and briefly glanced at his boyfriend.

“That’s a lie,” Nagi said flatly. Even a three-year-old would easily be able to see through Mitsuki’s blatant lie. It didn’t matter that Mitsuki kept his voice level as he spoke; it was easy to see from his bloodshot eyes that he’d been crying. “Your eyes are red.”

Kinako hopped onto the couch, and then Nagi’s lap. “Myuu-myuu!”

Nagi picked Kinako up, holding her in front of Mitsuki’s face. “See? They're red, just like Kinako’s.”

“It really is nothing!” Mitsuki insisted, with a smile that was obviously too forced. “I just got shampoo in my eyes and had a pretty bad case of allergies, so I rubbed my eyes too much. That's all.”

"But you don’t even have allergies!”

Mitsuki bit on his lip. “Please, just drop it!” he shouted, eyes widening when he realised the tone of his voice. Nagi mirrored Mitsuki’s expression of surprise – he didn’t think Mitsuki had ever shouted at him like that before. “...don’t worry about it. I'm fine.”

“...Mitsuki...” Nagi muttered. Why can’t you be more honest about what’s bothering you?

Chapter Text

Iori looked at the door as it was pushed open. “Good morning, Nanase-san.” 

“Ah...” Riku trailed off, as if at a loss for words. The couple hadn’t talked to each other for the entirety of the previous day, because Iori had left early and Riku had made sure to stay in his room even after the omega had come back. When Iori’d come in to check on him, Riku had pretended to be asleep. Iori hadn’t particularly believed it, but Riku had been adamant about keeping quiet. “Good morning, Iori...” 

Iori opened his mouth to speak, wanting to ask Riku how he was doing and if he’d had any attacks yesterday, but Banri burst into the room with a wide grin on his face. “Congratulations! Your new song is hitting top sales and has sold the most out of all your songs!” he announced, as if they didn’t all already know this. 

To Riku, his words felt like a harsh slap to the face. He'd tried his best not to think about the comments he’d read on the fan page, although it hadn’t worked at all, and now Banri had to bring it up again. “I’ll tell the President, since we just have to celebrate!” 

“I-is that so...” Riku mumbled. He forced a tight smile, laughing awkwardly and hoping that the others wouldn’t call him out on his bullshit. He knew he was easy to read, that he was absolutely terrible at hiding his emotions. It wasn’t helping that Iori was sitting right opposite him, and there was no way he could hide how he was feeling from Iori. “I’m glad!” 

Expectedly, Iori frowned. Riku was trying too hard to act normal – it would’ve been less suspicious if he’d just shown that he was upset. At least then, he could outright tell them that he didn’t want to talk about it and there would’ve been a chance that Iori would’ve left him alone for a bit. Now, though, Iori wanted to know what exactly was bothering his boyfriend to the extent that he had to hide it like this, even as bad as he was at it.

“Nanase-san-” 

“Ah... I think I’m going to go check the schedule!” Riku exclaimed, cutting Iori off before he could get a word out. The alpha got up from the floor, running out of the room and slamming the door loudly behind him. 

Banri turned to Iori. “What’s the matter with Riku-kun?” he asked. Of course he knew that Riku was bothered by something, but he had no clue at all as to why Riku had reacted so strongly to his statement. If anything, Banri had thought that they’d be happy about the news of their new song doing well. 

“...just what was that attitude!?” 

Banri jumped at Iori’s sudden outburst; he didn’t think he’d ever heard Iori speak in such a loud voice before. In fact, he hardly even saw Iori get angry, period. It at least seemed like Iori had an idea of what Riku was so bothered about. “Wah, you surprised me!” 

Iori paid Banri’s exclamation no heed. “I knew this was going to happen – I predicted this in the beginning! That he’d compare himself to me, to the rest of us!” Iori muttered agitatedly. He followed the comments on their fan page whenever he could spare the time, and he’d seen the same types of comments being posted over and over again. 

It didn’t surprise him at all that Riku had seen them, and that he’d gotten upset about it. Iori only wished that Riku could be more honest with them – or, at the very least, with him. He has to know that I feel just as bad about those comments as he does! It's not as if I’m doing this for my own sake! “Even though he foolishly laughed like that and thanked me! That traitor...!” 

“I-Iori-kun...” Banri said hesitantly. He didn’t want to risk making Iori more frustrated than he already was, but he also didn’t want to leave Iori as he was now. It wouldn’t be good for the team dynamics if the two were arguing, nor would it be good for the relationship between the two if they continued not to communicate with each other properly. “Are you alright?” 

With a tired sigh, Iori shook his head. “I... don’t know...” Iori answered honestly. He didn’t know why he felt like crying: he couldn’t tell if it was because Riku was upset, or if he was upset because of whatever misunderstanding Riku was having about the entire situation. 

Banri’s face fell, and he reached out to put a hand on Iori’s arm. “Iori-kun...” 

“Just who do you think wanted you to sing the most, out of all of us...” 

 

--- 

 

Yamato hummed thoughtfully, looking through the schedule for the day. “There’s the issue of scheduling for this location, so how about Riku and Ichi?” 

“...huh?” the two said at the same time, both sounding equally out of it. 

Riku winced at the way his voice came out. I just made a sound that makes it sound like I don’t want to...  

He just made a noise of protest just now, didn’t he... Iori thought. He recalled when Yamato told him to consider Riku’s feelings more – he’d realised then that what Riku wanted to do wasn’t always what was best for him. But with how troubled Riku had been since morning, maybe what Riku wanted  was  the right thing to do now. 

Evidently, the alpha didn’t want to go with him to the schedule. “Nanase-san’s physical condition is unstable. Wouldn't it be better if Rokuya-san and I went?” he suggested. 

His suggestion didn’t seem to please Riku in the least. Riku turned to look at Iori in what seemed to be a mix of hurt and disbelief. “...huh?” 

Iori sighed. It seemed like no matter what he did, Riku wouldn’t be pleased. If he’d ignored Riku’s noise of protest, he’d have risked Riku thinking that he didn’t care about how he felt. Sure, Iori did think that it would be better if Riku went to the schedule regardless, but it definitely hadn’t seemed like Riku wanted to go. “What do you want, then?” Iori demanded, sounding harsher than he intended to. 

Yamato didn’t give the couple any time to start an argument. “Alright, then Ichi and Nagi will be at this location,” he decided quickly. He didn’t have any energy to deal with the others’ relationship problems when they were already busy enough with work. “If MEZZO has time in their schedule, they can guest with Mitsu...” 

Mitsuki didn’t reply, simply stared at the ground listlessly. 

“Mitsu, did you hear me?” 

“...ah,” Mitsuki said, looking at Yamato. He couldn’t manage even a small smile. “Yeah, I heard. That's fine with me.” 

“Yamato,” Nagi chimed in, looking at his boyfriend worriedly. He still didn’t know why Mitsuki was so upset, but whatever he was, Nagi wasn’t about to let Mitsuki go to work in his current state. He was fairly certain that Mitsuki wouldn’t be able to muster his usual cheerfulness for a variety show. “Mitsuki isn’t feeling well. Please let me guest as well.” 

Yamato looked at Nagi incredulously. “It’ll be hard to get you out of that knot, but...” the beta looked over at Mitsuki. “Mitsu, is this okay?” 

“Yeah...” Mitsuki replied disinterestedly. 

Pursing his lips, Yamato turned to Riku and Iori. “How about Ichi and Riku?” 

The two glanced at each other for a brief moment. “Yes...” 

Yamato sighed. He could guess what was bothering all of them – he didn’t even need to go onto the official fan page to know about the things that fans had been saying about them. There were comments on other social media sites, and multiple posts on Twitter about all of them. Not all of those posts said good things about them; honestly, there were more bad comments than good ones. 

“Don’t listen to what all those people are saying,” Yamato told them. “We can only do what’s within the scope of our abilities, and give it our best. And that’s fine.” 

“Yeah...” 

“Yes...” 

Nagi looked between the three before meeting Yamato’s gaze, both shaking their heads slightly at the current state of their teammates. The only thing they could do was hope that things didn’t go downhill from here. It was bad enough as it was. 

 

--- 

 

Sougo frowned at his phone screen. “This is terrible...” 

Yamato glanced at the omega curiously. It was only the two of them in the living area at the moment, with the others either in their rooms or at various schedules and only due to return in the evening. Tamaki was off guesting at some variety show alone, and Nagi and Iori were at a radio show. 

Riku and Mitsuki had locked themselves in their rooms after returning from the office that morning, only having come out to go to the bathroom or get some water. Yamato was rather certain both of them hadn’t had lunch yet, though he doubted he would be able to convince them to eat anyway. “What are you looking at on your phone?” 

With a sigh, Sougo turned his phone so that Yamato could look at it. “Riku’s fans and Iori’s fans are fighting each other on social media,” he said with a grimace. 

“It seems like they fought after our last live, too,” Yamato pointed out. They weren’t too sure on the details – all they knew was that there had been an argument of sorts, and that the fans had gotten physical with each other because of it. It'd caused enough of a ruckus that the local authorities had been called to stop it. There’d even been a few reports on it written on a number of gossip magazines. “I don’t know if it’s because of that, but those two have been weird lately too...” 

“Is that so...” Sougo mumbled. 

“What’s wrong? Are they saying stuff about you, Sou?” 

“No, no,” Sougo was quick to reply. All things considered, MEZZO had been doing relatively well recently. They didn’t argue as much as before, not since they’d resolved their issue with Tamaki’s adlibs after Sougo’s heat had ended. There wasn’t much for the fans to nit-pick. “I’m quite average, so I don’t get criticised very often.” 

Yamato continued staring at Sougo, waiting for him to continue, and the omega pursed his lips. “I just can’t help but remember what happened back then...” 

“Back then?” 

“My uncle,” Sougo offered, as way of explanation. “Every time his name was mentioned, my family would always deny him... After being denied by his loved ones, he tried to become a lawyer, but that didn’t go well either...” 

Sougo returned Yamato’s sympathetic smile with a wistful one. “Remembering my past self is a little painful,” he admitted. “I wish there was something I could do for Riku-kun and the others. Mitsuki-san seems under the weather as well.” 

“It’ll be okay,” Yamato assured. “First, you’ve got to get on better terms with your partner, Sou.” 

Sougo raised a brow. “We already are. This is as good as it’ll get. For now, I mean.” 

“You sound like you’ve already reached enlightenment,” Yamato commented. 

“It’s true,” Sougo shrugged. He did want their relationship to get better, but the omega had long ago accepted that he would have to be patient. For the time being, he’d take what he could get. It was better than arguing all the time. “We’re complete opposites, so there’s nothing more that can be done now... It  is  much better than whatever was going on in the past few months though, right?” 

They lapsed into silence, and Sougo’s thoughts travelled back to the girl he’d met last night. “Just who was that girl...” 

“Girl?” 

He was certain that it was Aya, but he didn’t want to say anything about her to Tamaki just yet. In fact, he wasn’t even sure if he should mention it to Yamato. “Ah... it’s nothing,” Sougo lied. Then, in a smaller voice, “She did say that if I talked about her, that she’d jump.” 

The last thing Sougo needed was to be the cause of Aya’s death. His relationship with Tamaki was just starting to improve, even if they were far from the ideal couple. Sougo wasn’t sure how serious the girl had been about her threat, but he wasn’t about to risk anything. 

Yamato sighed, oblivious to Sougo’s inner turmoil. “It’s usually Mitsu who livens up all the members in times like these... And because Nagi’s worried about him, he’s not optimistic as usual and is also feeling down...” 

Sougo’s brows knit together in thought. “I wonder why...” he pondered aloud. “Even though his variety show appearances have increased and veterans in the industry have praised him... I’m not good at talking, so I’m envious of Mitsuki-san's talent.” 

“Rather than other entertainers,” Yamato corrected, “Mitsu wants the fans to acknowledge him.” 

“But don’t they already acknowledge him?” 

Yamato shrugged, taking a sip of water. “I don’t know about that... Being good at emceeing is harder to convey, versus singing or dancing,” he explained. Yamato had been exposed to the entertainment industry for far longer than Sougo, and he had a firmer grasp of what it was like. “Emcees are kinda like spotlights. You shine the light towards people who are looking great and away from those who are tired. 

“He has to make these split-second decisions, all while shining the light equally on everyone and going from topic to topic.” 

Sougo nodded in agreement. “It is truly amazing work. I don’t think I could do it in the slightest...” 

“It really is amazing,” Yamato said. “But when you’re watching the stage, it’s not the spotlight that stands out – it's those who are under the spotlight. There'll always be disgruntled fans who want the light to shine where they want it to. And they’ll have no qualms voicing this displeasure.” 

“Yamato-san, you should tell Mitsuki-san all this,” Sougo suggested. “I’m sure it’ll encourage him.” 

“About that...” 

“Is there a problem with that?” 

“He’s prideful, way more than we think,” Yamato said with a small sigh. 

Sougo frowned even more than he already had been. “Prideful...” 

“Tama’s the same type of guy,” the beta pointed out. “Be careful.” 

Sougo didn’t need Yamato to tell him that; he spent much more time with Tamaki than Yamato did. He knew fully well how prideful Tamaki could be. After all, Sougo could say the same about himself. Otherwise, they never would’ve argued about the same issue for a few months consecutively. “What about you, Yamato-san?” 

“My pride levels fluctuate wildly depending on the day,” Yamato supplied helpfully. 

Sougo stared at the beta blankly. “Aren’t you the most complicated, then...” 

 

--- 

 

Tamaki poked his head into the living area, where he knew Sougo would be. “Souchan, Manager’s calling for you,” he called out. “She’s waiting in the car because she says it won’t take long.” 

“Ah... understood. If you’ll excuse me, Yamato-san.” 

Yamato waved the omega off. “Yeah,” he said, waiting until Sougo went out of the living area before turning to Tamaki. “Hey, Tama, let’s go eat ramen. Keep me company.” 

Tamaki’s eyes lit up at the mention of free food. If there was anyone whose treat he would never refuse, it was Yamato’s. The beta was rather loose with his money, for someone who wasn’t nearly as rich as Sougo was. Even now, Tamaki thought it was unfair that Riku had gotten to eat a bunch of sushi and that Yamato had nonchalantly footed the bill for him. “You’re going to pay for it? Hell yeah!” 

“Yeah, yeah,” Yamato chuckled. “Wait here. I’ll go and grab my wallet.” 

"Got it.” 

It took barely a minute for Yamato to go to his room, get his wallet, and return to the living room. Then the duo went out of the dorm, and Tamaki waved to his boyfriend who was in the car with Tsumugi. “I’m going to eat ramen with Yamasan,” Tamaki said, when Sougo rolled down the window. “He’s treating!” 

“That’s great,” Sougo said with a smile. “Enjoy yourself.” 

“Do you want anything?” 

“Oi, Tama, this is my money you’re spending.” 

“But you don’t mind, right?” 

Yamato paused, glancing at Sougo only to be met with a sheepish smile. “I suppose I don’t.” 

“Maybe just gyoza...?” Sougo said unsurely. “I can pay for my share, if you’d like, Yamato-san.” 

“No, Tama is going to be pissed at me if I don’t foot the entire bill,” Yamato pointed out. “Manager?” 

“It’s fine! The President and Banri-san are waiting for me at home with dinner.” 

“Banri-san stays with you guys?” Yamato asked incredulously. The topic of where Banri stayed had never really come up before, so this was news to all three idols. They knew that Banri was close to the Takanashis, but not to the extent that he stayed with them. 

Tsumugi blinked, as if just realising what she’d said. “Well... he didn’t always stay with us. At the start he did, and then he moved out for a while. At some point the President needed Banri-san to run errands at night or just to get some work done, and Banri-san was the one who asked if it was okay for him to come back and stay with us.” 

A lie, really, but Tsumugi wasn’t about to tell the others that. Banri had started staying with them right after they’d first met; Otoharu had been the one who’d invited him to do so. The beta’s reasoning had been that it wasn’t safe for an omega to be living alone, although Tsumugi had always wondered if there’d been another reason. She hadn’t asked, and they hadn’t brought it up. 

It had only been over a year after staying under the same roof that Otoharu and Banri had properly gotten together. It was nearly half a year after that that they had finally told Tsumugi about their relationship, not that Tsumugi hadn’t already suspected it. 

Yamato didn’t look convinced. “...okay? We’ll see you tomorrow then. Don’t get back too late.” 

“Understood! Enjoy your dinner!” 

“See you later, Souchan,” Tamaki drawled. 

Sougo gave the alpha a small wave as he turned to walk away, and Yamato hurried to keep up with him. 

They headed to the nearest ramen store to the dorm, not wanting to go too far because it was already getting late. It was only about ten minutes away by foot, so the duo quickly made their way over, not wanting to get there too late and end up delaying their closing. 

Tamaki glanced at Yamato curiously as they walked. It'd been mostly silent between them, but Tamaki had a feeling that the beta wanted to tell him something. Also, as much as Tamaki didn’t mind the free food, it was weird for Yamato to offer to treat him so suddenly. Even back when he’d treated Riku to sushi, it’d been with the motive to keep an eye on their centre. “Why are you treating me to ramen all of a sudden?” 

Expectedly, Yamato shrugged. “There's something about Sou I wanted to discuss.” 

“...about Souchan?” Tamaki questioned quizzically. “What?” 

“I was talking to him earlier, and you know...” Yamato trailed off, silently apologising to Tamaki for lying to him, “he’s actually a big fan of you.” 

Tamaki stared at Yamato in utter disbelief. Of all the things Yamato could have said, he certainly hadn’t imagined that the leader would ever say this. “Yup. That's a lie.” 

Yamato let out a sigh. It was feigned, extremely so, but the beta had confidence in his acting ability. “It isn’t,” he said simply, meeting Tamaki’s incredulous gaze with a level one. Tama knows Sou well, huh. “He respects your skills as a dancer, says he looks up to you in that regard. So, because he wants you to stay cool, he kind of just ends up being stricter on you.” 

Tamaki still didn’t look very convinced, although Yamato could tell that he was starting to let his guard down. He couldn’t even blame Tamaki for not believing him – Sougo never had been, and most likely would never be, the type to be so openly honest about what he felt. 

Yamato did believe that what he was saying wasn’t wrong, though. Sougo didn’t have to voice it aloud for the beta to know that he really did respect his partner. Tamaki was capable of a lot of things that Sougo wasn’t: being honest about how he felt, voicing his displeasure, knowing how to have fun. 

Tamaki stared at Yamato for a long moment as they continued to make their way to the ramen place, at last asking, “...Souchan does? Really?” 

Yamato saw a chance and took it, nodding easily in reply and slinging an arm over Tamaki’s shoulder. “He does. I told him, ‘Hey now, just say it to Tama’s face’,” the beta said, shrugging. “But you know him. He's shy, got all flustered and was like ‘It’s too embarrassing, I can’t tell him up front’.” 

Humming, Tamaki’s brows creased in thought. Yamato could almost see the gears turning in his head, as if he was deciding whether or not to believe him. “That’s why,” Yamato continued, pushing just a little further, “when Sou’s being strict on you, don’t feel too down. He's only like that because he’s got high expectations for you.” 

“Is that so...” 

“Forgive him for the pudding issue, too,” he added after a moment’s thought. He knew that the past two days hadn’t been particularly easy for Sougo, with how Tamaki had ignored him completely except when they had to reply to a question regarding MEZZO’s activities. “Because he really, really, really loves you, Tama. Being treated that coldly by his alpha must have shocked him.” 

“I see...” Tamaki muttered, a smile slowly spreading across his face. The alpha chuckled to himself, and Yamato let out the breath he’d been holding. He'd been worried that Tamaki would catch onto his lie, as well-constructed as he thought it was. “What, he should’ve just told me.” 

Yamato chuckled as well. “Right?” 

“Let’s hurry and buy Souchan some gyoza and bring it back to him. I'm sure he’s hungry.” 

“Sure.” 

Tamaki entered the ramen store, heading straight to the cashier and placing an order of ramen and takeaway gyoza. Yamato stood by the side, arms crossed while waiting for Tamaki to finish ordering. With a small sigh, Yamato said to himself, “Don’t take too badly of me, Tama. Riku and Ichi are fighting, Mitsu’s feeling down, and Nagi’s affected by that too. If there was also trouble with MEZZO, onii-san'd be at over-capacity so-” 

“Yamasan,” Tamaki called out suddenly, snapping Yamato out of his monologue. “Your card.” 

“-so it’s best if you two are on good terms,” Yamato murmured, pulling his wallet out of his pocket and walking over to the cashier. He took his card out, handing it to Tamaki and scanning over what the alpha had ordered. “...oi, Tama, you didn’t order for me?!” 

 

--- 

 

Tamaki turned to look at Sougo eagerly. “Souchan, did you see that move just now?” 

Sougo raised a brow, slightly amused, and nodded. “I did.” 

“How was it?” 

“Very good, as usual.” 

Tamaki laughed haughtily, and Sougo let out a soft chuckle of his own. Whatever was up with Tamaki wasn’t a bad thing, if the alpha was as excited as he was now. “You seem to be in a good mood,” the omega commented. He thought of the girl he’d met last night, figuring that now was as good a time as any to ask about her. “Ah, right, Tamaki-kun, there’s something I’d like to ask of you.” 

“Sure,” Tamaki replied easily, “what is it?” 

“Do you mind showing me a picture of your younger sister, if you have one?” 

The smile dropped off Tamaki’s face almost immediately, although his scent indicated that he wasn’t upset by the question in any way. “Sorry, I don’t have one,” the alpha said with a grimace. “If I did, I would’ve shown you already.” 

Sougo suppressed a sigh, simply nodding in understanding. He had expected as much, considering Tamaki hadn’t shown him a photo when he’d been talking about his favourite colour. “I see...” 

Tamaki tilted his head curiously. “Are you... worried about my sister?” 

“Hm?” Sougo asked, almost absentmindedly. He didn’t know why Tamaki was even asking; even if he hadn’t run into a girl who might’ve been Aya just last night, Sougo had still been thinking about how to help Tamaki find Aya more quickly. “Yeah, I am...” 

“I see. Souchan, you’re really nice.” 

“I guess...?” Sougo said unsurely. He liked when Tamaki was being nice, but considering they hadn’t been talking to each other for the past two days, Sougo wasn’t sure what sparked the change in attitude. It was rather unsettling – Sougo couldn’t help wondering if something had happened. 

With an affirmative nod, Tamaki said, “I forgive you. About the pudding.” 

“Really?” Sougo asked in disbelief. “Sorry about that. Thank-” 

“Hey, we have the same day off next month, don’t we?” 

Sougo blinked in surprise. “-huh? Y-yeah.” 

“How about we go somewhere and hang out together?” Tamaki suggested. “Like a date.” 

“...what’s wrong, Tamaki-kun?” Sougo asked, starting to get a little worried. Tamaki being nice was one thing, forgiving him for the pudding incident was another, but asking him out on a date? He really shouldn’t be questioning Tamaki’s good intentions, but he couldn’t help but wonder where all this was coming from. “Did you perhaps eat something bad- ouch!” 

Yamato shot Sougo a sharp look. “Don’t say unnecessary things, Sou,” he hissed. “Tama’s finally conceded and is apologising to you.” 

“Y-Yamato-san...” Sougo muttered, rubbing the spot where Yamato had just elbowed. 

The beta paid him no heed. “He might be awkward or clumsy, but this is him trying his best. He's finally trying to do something for your relationship, so just respond to those feelings properly, alright?” 

“I-is that what’s going on...?” Sougo questioned, still doubtful about the entire situation. Yamato probably wasn’t wrong, but Sougo couldn’t help wondering if the beta had something to do with this. “It was wrong of me to doubt him; that was immature of me.” 

Sougo turned back to look at Tamaki with a small smile. “Sure, Tamaki-kun. Let's hang out together,” he agreed. He couldn’t help but feel slightly excited at the prospect of going on a proper date with Tamaki. It’d been about nine months since they’d gotten together, and the only time they’d gone out together on anything remotely resembling a date was when they’d gone to visit the orphanage. 

Tamaki grinned, pumping his fist excitedly. “Hell yeah! That’s a promise, okay?” 

Sougo nodded, chuckling when Tamaki bent to press a quick kiss to his cheek. “Yeah.” 

“I’m heading out first, then! Let's sleep in my room tonight, Souchan!” 

“Good work today,” Sougo said, waving to his boyfriend as he left. He waited until Tamaki had closed the door to let his brows draw together in concern. “I wonder if something happened...?” 

“It’s a miracle,” Yamato commented simply. “One that was fuelled by three refills.” 

“What?” 

“Nothing. Just my side of the story.” 

Chapter Text

“Thank you for your hard work today, MEZZO!”

“Thank you,” Sougo replied with a small smile. “I look forward to working with you again.”

Beside him, Tamaki lowered himself into a bow. “I look forward to working with you again,” the alpha said, repeating Sougo’s words to the director. “Thank you very much.”

Sougo could barely conceal the shock written all over his face. He didn’t think he’d ever heard Tamaki thank any of the TV staff after ending a shooting before, much less the director. As far as Sougo knew, his boyfriend wasn’t a big fan of taking orders from anyone, programme directors included. He was honestly beginning to get concerned about Tamaki; did something happen recently? With the date, too...

“...Tamaki-kun?”

The director didn’t seem to see a problem with the sudden change in Tamaki’s attitude, despite the fact that MEZZO guested regularly on this programme. “Oh, how polite of you, Tamaki-kun!” he commented cheerily. Huh. He noticed the change too, huh. “So this is the result of Sougo-kun's training! Alright then, I’ll see you next week!”

Tamaki straightened himself and nodded firmly. “Yes!”

It was only after the director and staff walked away that Sougo looked his boyfriend over, noting that there didn’t seem to be anything amiss with the alpha’s scent. “What happened, Tamaki-kun...?” he asked, deciding that it was best to just ask if something was wrong. It was probably wrong to keep doubting Tamaki’s change of heart, but Sougo really found it hard to believe that his boyfriend would change so suddenly.

“W-what?” Tamaki asked, sounding genuinely confused. “Was that weird? Was something off?”

Sougo opened his mouth to reply, but found that he wasn’t sure how to. Tamaki wasn’t wrong to be polite to the director – they just weren’t used to it, and it was out of character, but in no way wrong. It took Sougo a few moments to find his voice, and his face lit up as he said, “Not at all! Did you hear him? He praised you. He said you were polite!”

Tamaki stared at Sougo, not oblivious to how happy and relieved the omega seemed to be. It was nothing at all like how Sougo usually was after a schedule – most of the time, if not always, he would be having a lengthy discussion with the director while Tamaki went ahead back to their waiting room to eat pudding. In hindsight, he supposed it hadn’t been quite right of him to always do that. “...Are you happy when I get praised, Souchan?”

Nodding furiously in reply, Sougo said, “Yes, very much so! It's an auspicious occasion for me; just like getting sekihan-bento!”

“...the thing that Yukirin said...” Tamaki muttered under his breath, thinking about when Yuki had told him to remain true to his character. He did want to enjoy himself on stage and shows, but Sougo never quite seemed this happy after ending a schedule. If doing something as simple as thanking the director and being more polite could make his omega this happy, then he could deal with a little bit of politeness and courtesy on his part.

Sougo raised his brow, not quite having caught what Tamaki said. “Huh?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Tamaki said with a grin. Sougo hadn’t been too happy with what Yuki had said, so he doubted that the omega would have a problem with him not doing as Yuki had told him to. “Let’s go and change back into our clothes and go home.”

“Yeah, okay,” Sougo agreed. They made their way out of the recording studio, and back to the changing room. “I’ll buy you some King Pudding on the way back! Ah... all that work wasn’t for nothing...”

Tamaki pumped his fist victoriously. “Yay!”

 

---

 

The cameraman signalled to the group. “Alright, let’s start the show!”

“Yes!” Mitsuki called back. He sighed inwardly, willing himself not to frown. He couldn’t help thinking about the things he’d overheard from the fans at the store a few days ago, and he knew that it would surely affect his emceeing for the evening. But he acknowledged that they had a point, because he did know that spoke a lot while hosting A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7.

The camera started rolling, and Mitsuki forced a smile. “Good evening, everyone! It’s time for A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7! Today’s episode features something related to hanami, aka flower viewing!” he began, looking over at the other members. “Do you guys have any fond memories of hanami?”

“Hanami...” Riku mumbled, looking downcast. “I’ve never really gone.”

“Huh? Really?”

Riku nodded. “Yeah...”

Mitsuki glanced at the others nervously, wondering how he should proceed. If he continued talking, the camera would be on him for too long, considering how Riku didn’t seem to be in the mood to talk much. But if he moved onto the next topic too quickly, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to come up with enough things to say throughout the show. “Is that so?” he said after a second. “Then let’s go sometime! What kind of flowers would you want to see?”

“Huh?” Riku said, for the second time in the span of one minute. It was almost as if Riku’s mind was elsewhere; judging from the concerned look on Iori’s face directed towards the alpha, there was probably something bothering him. “Well... I kind of want to see cherry blossoms at night! I want to try staking out a place sometime, too.”

Mitsuki laughed, way too boisterously for it to be remotely considered natural. He saw the odd looks that the others sent his way, and he winced internally at how awkward his laugh was. “Staking out? That's a little weird!”

Riku’s responding laughter was decidedly less cheerful. “...I guess so?”

The beta swallowed nervously. He wondered if he’d spoken too much again, like he always did. Come on guys, talk more... Mitsuki pleaded mentally. Iori, you’re right next to Riku, so pick a fight with him or something. Anything to improve the atmosphere now.

He turned to his brother. He couldn’t jolly well tell Iori to start an argument with his boyfriend, but he could at least initiate some sort of conversation. “Iori, do you have any memories about hanami?”

“Just that I went with family,” Iori responded curtly, “when I was a child.”

Mitsuki waited a moment, and another, for Iori to continue. But, naturally, the omega didn’t, instead continuing to sneak concerned glances at his boyfriend. “That’s right...” Mitsuki edged, trying to get Iori to elaborate. “What kind of flowers did you see?”

Iori looked at Mitsuki, brows furrowed in confusion. “Nii-san, do you not remember?”

Mitsuki wanted to cry and hit his head against the wall, both at the same time. I do remember, but I’m not the one who should be talking! he thought frustratedly. What do the fans want to see? What do the fans want to hear? ...what do I do? What should I do so I can be of use to everyone right now?

The filming ended without Mitsuki being able to liven things up, and the beta was the first to leave the studio after thanking the staff. “Thank you for all of your hard work today!” the staff called out.

“I wonder what was wrong with Mitsuki-san?” one of them pondered aloud. “He didn’t have his usual edge today.”

The director nodded gravely in agreement. “If he doesn’t get in the groove, then the other members don’t hop onto the conversation topics,” he said, seeming deeply troubled. “I hope he’s back to normal next time around.”

Nagi watched his boyfriend leave, worry written all over his features. He thought he’d been imagining that something was wrong with Mitsuki, but the beta had been acting rather strange ever since his time off a few days back. Today’s recording just confirmed Nagi’s suspicions that something was indeed bothering his boyfriend, and whatever that something was, he needed to solve it somehow. “I knew it,” Nagi sighed. “There’s something off about Mitsuki.”

He was quick to follow Mitsuki out of the studio, taking long strides to catch up with the beta. He wasn’t sure how Mitsuki had gone so far so fast, but Nagi’s longer legs allowed him to close the distance quickly enough. “Mitsuki, please wait,” he called out. His boyfriend stopped, and Nagi took the chance to get closer to him. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you. Something very important.”

Mitsuki didn’t move, and didn’t turn to face Nagi. “What?” he asked flatly. “Is it about Kokona?”

Nagi made a face, though Mitsuki didn’t see it. He knew he talked an awful lot about Kokona, but he couldn’t believe that Mitsuki thought that he would want to talk to Kokona when the beta was so visibly upset. “It’s about you, Mitsuki,” Nagi said with a soft sigh.

Mitsuki's laugh was devoid of emotion. “...I told you, it’s nothing.”

The beta began to walk off again, and Nagi frowned. “Mitsuki!”

“I’m going to head back first!”

Mitsuki was fast, but the distance between them was small enough that Nagi could take two steps and grab onto his boyfriend’s arms. “...gotcha!”

“Dammit!” Mitsuki hissed, trying to wrench himself out of Nagi’s grip. His efforts proved futile, because Nagi’d been trained in various martial arts since he’d been young. Mitsuki did have a fair amount of muscle from working in Fonte Chocolat, but he wasn’t a match for the alpha. “Let go of me!”

Nagi sighed again, louder this time. “Please don’t trash about,” he pleaded, now holding Mitsuki up in the air. “Will you talk like this? While I’m lifting you up from under your arms?”

No!

“Then how about face-to-face,” Nagi said, setting Mitsuki down on his feet and turning the beta so that they were facing each other. Mitsuki refused to look up, so Nagi lifted his chin up with a finger. “Let’s talk, eye to eye. Don't run. When you run away, it makes me sad, Mitsuki. Do you hate me?”

“...not at all...”

“Then talk.”

“...Sorry about today,” Mitsuki apologised, averting his gaze from Nagi’s. It hurt the alpha to see that his boyfriend couldn’t even make eye contact with him. For how much time they spent with each other, it sucked that Mitsuki couldn’t even be open about his feelings with him. “I couldn’t get the conversation going at all. I'll do better next time...

“I’ll do my best... I’m doing my best.” Mitsuki’s voice hitched in his throat, and he worried that the tears would spill out of his eyes. “But, I just...  I just don’t know how or what to do...”

Nagi put a hand on Mitsuki’s shoulder, squeezing it in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. He didn’t need to be able to smell Mitsuki’s scent to know that he was, and had been for a few days, terribly upset about something. “You don’t have to push yourself so hard,” he advised in a gentle voice. “When you’re feeling down, you don’t have to push yourself that much. You're fine just the way you are, Mitsuki, and I love you for that. There's nothing wrong with that.”

“But, I...” Mitsuki trailed off, finally meeting Nagi’s earnest gaze hesitantly. His eyes were bright with unshed tears; Nagi ached to wipe them away. “Is it okay, if I say something pathetic...?”

Nodding encouragingly, Nagi said, “Completely okay.”

“I-I... I don’t want anyone to hate me...” Mitsuki whispered, as if he was scared that someone would hear him revealing his insecurities to his boyfriend. “I don’t want, or need, everyone in the whole wide world to love me... Nothing extravagant like that. I just... I just don’t want the people who love you guys to hate me... Not them, at the very least.”

The first tear made its way down Mitsuki’s cheek, and Nagi moved to brush his thumb against Mitsuki’s cheek. He was painfully aware that they were in the corridor of the studio, and that they could be seen by anyone and everyone walking by, so he refrained from bending down to kiss his boyfriend.

Mitsuki sniffled. “Because... aren’t we the same? Shouldn't we be the same? Both the fans and I... we love IDOLiSH7... That’s why... I want to do things right...”

“Mitsuki...”

“I want to make them happy, Nagi,” Mitsuki said, his voice broken. “I... I want everyone to be happy. I want to make them happy through my work, the same way Riku’s singing or Tamaki’s dancing or your face does...”

He looked at Nagi helplessly, searching for an answer in the alpha’s face. “Say, Nagi... What should I do...? Is it... is it right for me to stay in IDOLiSH7...?”

“What are you saying?” Nagi asked incredulously. He knew Mitsuki could be insecure at the best of times, but the beta wasn’t the type to bring up something like this out of the blue. There had to be some reason for Mitsuki’s behaviour, and Nagi was determined to find out what. “Without you, Mitsuki, we aren’t IDOLiSH7.”

Mitsuki bit his lip, and Nagi decided that it didn’t matter who saw them. There was no reason why Nagi couldn’t be seen comforting his upset teammate. He pulled Mitsuki towards him, letting Mitsuki hide his face in his chest and sob silently. “Don’t cry, Mitsuki...” Nagi begged. “Who did this to you? Who upset you this much? Who did something so terrible...” Who should I hold accountable?

Shaking his head, Mitsuki said, “No one... no one at all, Nagi...”

The beta pulled back to look at his boyfriend. “What is my role, Nagi? What is something I can do...? All those feelings of love from all the people in the city – just how should I answer to that? I want to make everyone happy, and yet...”

“It’ll be okay, Mitsuki,” Nagi said soothingly. “We’ll think of something together. So please, don’t cry. You know I hate it most when you cry.”

“I’m sorry,” Mitsuki sobbed, and Nagi pulled the beta towards him once more. “I’m sorry.”

 

---

 

Mitsuki sighed, pushing the door open and entering the living area. “I’m home...”

He'd been co-hosting a radio show while the original host was on maternity leave, and luckily for him, he didn’t have any other schedules for the day. After they’d finished recording A Lovely Night with IDOLiSH7 yesterday and returned to the dorm, Mitsuki had taken a shower and gone straight to bed.

Nagi had looked like he wanted to ask him more questions, but Mitsuki had managed only a small smile at his boyfriend. The alpha had understood, for which Mitsuki was glad. He didn’t know if he had it in him to talk about the incident at the store just yet, not without breaking down into tears again.

Before he’d managed to fall asleep, though, Nagi had crept into his room and asked, “Can I sleep with you tonight, Mitsuki?” Mitsuki had been on the verge of saying no, but Nagi had added, “I promise not to ask any questions. I just want to sleep together.”

And Mitsuki couldn’t deny that it was nice to be held by Nagi throughout the night; for how hyper and excitable Nagi was during the day, he was a really silent sleeper, didn’t disturb Mitsuki in any way as he slept. Just curling up against the alpha’s warm body helped Mitsuki sleep better, so he’d lifted the edge of his blanket, let Nagi slip into his bed, and gotten comfortable before promptly falling asleep.

As promised, Nagi hadn’t said a single word, instead simply holding the beta and watching him as he slept. Mitsuki hadn’t slept well, per se, but it had at least been better than the previous three nights. He wasn’t about to complain.

Iori, in comparison, didn’t seem to be faring so well. The omega sat by the kitchen counter, staring blankly at said counter and sighing softly to himself. Even as shitty as he felt about his own situation, he couldn’t leave his younger brother alone. “Iori? What's he doing all by himself?” he mumbled. “Is he worrying about all that centre stuff...?”

He waited for a few moments before speaking up. “I’m home!” he called out, causing Iori to jump slightly in surprise. The fact that he was surprised made Mitsuki surprised – it wasn’t very easy to catch Iori off guard. “Iori, you hungry? How about I make you some pancakes?”

“Nii-san...” Iori greeted listlessly. “Welcome back. Pancakes...?”

Mitsuki nodded with faked cheer. “Yup, yup! Your favourite, the ones with lots of honey!” he confirmed with a grin. He was rather certain that Iori could see through him, as he usually could, but the omega didn’t call him out on it. “Nii-chan is a famous patissier, after all!”

Iori’s answering smile was small, but genuine. Looking at the younger now, Mitsuki could see just how drawn Iori looked. He couldn’t imagine how much stress Iori had been under. “Thank you very much. I love nii-san's pancakes.”

Chuckling, Mitsuki replied, “I know! Iori, you’ve worked really hard, so I’m rewarding you!

“You’re a good boy, Iori,” the beta said, feeling his smile turn into a sad one. He was proud of Iori, but he couldn’t help still feeling bad about himself. He felt guilty just feeling bad about himself. “Not only do you balance school and work – you're always helping everyone out, too! You’re a younger brother I can be proud of.”

“Nii-san...”

“You can do everything, Iori,” Mitsuki continued. “For you, it hurts more when things are strained between you and your friends versus being compared to others, right? Especially since it’s your alpha. I feel really down when that happens, though, so I do understand how Riku feels. So, until Riku cheers up again, just sit tight. It’s tough, but just hang on.”

Iori sighed, for what was probably the hundredth time that afternoon. “Yes.”

“It’ll be okay!” Mitsuki assured. “Here, I’ll put buttercream on top too! I’ll put all your favourites on it! What would you like? Request whatever you want, because this is a special menu just for you!”

“...can you make the pancakes bear-shaped?” Iori asked in a small voice. It'd been a long time since Mitsuki had offered to make pancakes for him, even longer since they’d been alone in the dorm while doing so. Mitsuki had always made pancakes for him when he was upset.

Mitsuki also took to cooking when he himself was upset. Iori knew that much.

Mitsuki nodded in understanding. “Of course! I'll put my all into these Kuma-san Pancakes; that’ll cheer you right up!” he said. “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay... I’m sure everything will go well. These pancakes, and us too. Everything will go well...”

Iori looked at his brother curiously. “...nii-san, is something wrong?”

“I...” Mitsuki contemplated lying, but Iori would see through him anyway. “Yeah, there is. I don’t really want to talk about it, if you don’t mind. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”

“Okay,” Iori said. He was plenty used to Mitsuki keeping his problems to himself, and Iori didn’t have the energy to push for an explanation now. “It’s fine if you don’t tell me, but I do hope you at least confide in Rokuya-san.”

Mitsuki snorted. “Believe me, Nagi wouldn’t allow me not to,” he pointed out. The thought of his boyfriend did put a small smile on his face. “But he’s not pushing me, either. Sometimes I feel like Nagi is too understanding of me. I don’t really deserve him.”

“You do deserve him, nii-san,” Iori said. “You deserve all the love in the world.”

The beta couldn’t help the sigh that escaped his lips. “...do I really?” he muttered inaudibly. “Do I?”

 

---

 

Riku walked out of his room with a small grimace, mentally preparing for himself to have to interact with Iori in front of the other members.

It’d been five days since he’d come across the hurtful comments on their fan page. Much to his disappointment, at himself and not Iori, he hadn’t found the courage to properly face his boyfriend. He felt pathetic, both as Iori’s alpha and IDOLiSH7’s centre.

He wasn’t entirely sure how he’d even managed to avoid talking to Iori for four entire days outside of work, or why Iori had let him do it. The omega was usually a lot more insistent when it came to Riku’s wellbeing, though that tended to apply more to his physical wellbeing more than his mental or emotional wellbeing.

Five days was more than enough for him to decide that he couldn’t hide from Iori anymore; even if he wasn’t ready to talk about his insecurities with the omega just yet, the least he could do was to stop avoiding Iori. He didn’t imagine it felt nice to be avoided by your own alpha, and it wasn’t right for him to do that to his omega.

Upon entering the living area, Riku’s eyes automatically found the omega sitting at the dining table. Tamaki, Sougo, and Yamato sat at the counter, Nagi and Mitsuki on the couch, and Riku was all too aware of their gazes on him. They knew how things had been between the couple as of late, though none of them had had any time to talk to either of them about it. “Hey, Iori...” Riku greeted awkwardly.

He'd noticed it before, but Iori looked completely and utterly exhausted. And still, he glanced at Riku with a small smile, nodding at the empty seat in front of him. “Good morning, Nanase-san,” Iori returned the greeting as Riku sat down.

They stared at each other for a prolonged moment. “I...” both of them said at the same time.

“You first, Nanase-san.”

“N-no, you first, Iori! You're the centre right now-” Riku’s eyes widened, and he cursed himself internally for saying something so ridiculously stupid. Way to go, Riku. Now Iori knows what you were beating yourself up about. “I mean...”

Iori narrowed his eyes at his boyfriend. He'd known that Riku had been overthinking things regarding the centre change, and he understood why the alpha was worried, but he hadn’t quite expected it to blow up in his face like this. “...how does that have anything to do with this?”

“Ah, no, that’s not it!” Riku was quick to say, his accompanying chuckle sounding extremely forced even to himself. “It was just a slip of the tongue...”

Expectedly, Iori didn’t look impressed at all. The smile he’d been wearing previously was all but gone, now replaced with a displeased frown. He didn’t look nearly as disgruntled as he smelt, although his tone when he spoke indicated as much. “It’s because you’ve been brooding about it for so long that it slipped out, am I correct?”

“I-I wasn’t brooding! Aren't you being a little cold!?” Riku retorted defensively, and immediately he wanted to take back his words. Iori’s expression darkened, even more than it already had been.

“I am always cold!” Iori said agitatedly. He was lying, they both knew that, but he was sick and tired of playing nice with Riku. He'd given the alpha an entire five days to work through whatever had been on his mind, and he’d told himself that if Riku still hadn’t gotten his shit together by then, he wouldn’t keep quiet anymore. “Have I ever been clingy towards you, ever?”

“They’re fighting,” Tamaki muttered, “again. What does Iorin mean when he says he isn’t clingy? He and Rikkun used to sleep together every other night.” Turning to Mitsuki, Tamaki asked, “Are you going to stop them, Mikki?”

“...ha?” Mitsuki asked in a daze. “Huh? What?”

“Nagicchi...”

Nagi hummed absentmindedly, his concerned gaze directed at the beta sitting beside him.

Tamaki sighed, turning to their leader. “Yamasan...”

“Don’t talk to me, Tama. I'm in energy-saving mode right now.”

The alpha looked at Yamato incredulously, then turned to Sougo who simply shrugged helplessly. There wasn’t much that he would be able to do, especially not if Riku ended up getting upset. Of the five of them, Sougo would be in the most disadvantageous position if that happened.

Another sigh, and Tamaki stood up from his seat. “Hey, listen everyone! Fighting is bad!”

Sougo startled, and he caught the subtle push in Tamaki’s voice. His outburst startled Riku and Iori as well, and the couple turned to look at him with slightly wide eyes. “When did Tamaki-kun become the upstanding, honour student character...” Sougo mused, recalling how well the alpha had behaved during their past few schedules. “I should probably do my best to help.

“We’re appearing with Re:vale today,” Sougo spoke up. He saw Tamaki’s smile in his peripheral vision; it was clear that Tamaki was thankful for the help. “I wonder if we’ll get to hear their cover of Zero’s song...? What do you think, Riku-kun?”

“E-eh?” Riku asked, looking like a deer caught in headlights. “I do hope we get to hear it.”

“There is the issue of the vandalism on Zero Arena’s walls, though...” Iori added. “I just hope that it doesn’t affect Yuki-san and Momo-san's condition tonight.”

“They’re the grand winners of last year’s Black or White! I’m sure they’ll be fine!” Riku said confidently.

“I sure hope you’re right, Nanase-san,” Iori sighed. He was glad that Tamaki had cut in when he had; Iori was sick and tired of not being on speaking terms with his alpha. He knew his mood was affected by how things had been between them for the past few days, and he also knew he could say things he didn’t mean when he was this upset. He certainly didn’t need to say something that he wouldn’t be able to take back.

His phone pinged with a message, and he got up from his seat. “Manager’s here. Let's go.”

 

---

 

“And now, let me introduce our next guest, whom you’ve all been waiting for!” Shimooka announced. He turned to gesture towards the backstage, where Yuki and Momo were already on standby and waiting for their cue. “It’s the duo, Re:vale!”

Momo’s entrance was as energetic as always, the beta bounding onto stage and waving excitedly at the screaming audience. “Good evening!”

Yuki’s entrance was comparably calmer; he followed behind Momo at a leisurely pace, also offering a greeting wave to the audience. “Good evening.”

“It’s Re:vale, who’ve been the talk of the town since they’ve announced that they’re covering Zero’s hit single for their fifth anniversary concert!” Shimooka waited for the duo to take their seats before continuing, “How’re you feeling right now?”

“My heart’s pounding, but I’m pretty excited!” Momo responded brightly. “I love doing new things!”

“Momo-kun, as bright as ever! How about you, Yuki-kun?”

Yuki’s lips curved into a gentle smile, and he sent a glance at Momo, though the beta was too busy waving to the audience to really notice. The fans, however, did see it, and erupted into screams at the love reflected in the alpha’s gaze. “The pressure would’ve been a bit much if I was doing this alone,” Yuki admitted, keeping his gaze on his boyfriend, “but I’ve got this guy.”

When Momo finally turned to look at Yuki, he had to fight to keep a blush off his face. He could tell the difference between when Yuki was doing something for fanservice versus when he was being genuine; it still made him overly-conscious of himself when Yuki looked at him like they were the only people in the room. “I’ll do my best, darling!”

“Oh! Re:vale sure get along well, just as usual.”

Momo winked playfully at Yuki, maintaining their onscreen act. “We bathe together, too.”

“No,” Yuki was quick to say, “no we don’t.”

“We’ve even got a matching couples’ set of chopsticks!”

“But we don’t know each other’s full names.”

“I don’t remember our group name either...”

Yuki couldn’t help but chuckle at Momo’s last statement. “Please remember that much, at least.”

Shimooka let out a hearty laugh of his own. “That’s Re:vale for you, masters of the married-couple comedy act! And now, for their song...!”

Riku watched Re:vale, awed as always by how easy it seemed to be for them to make the atmosphere of the recording lively. He wondered if, in five years from now, he would be able to do what they did just as effortlessly as now. “Re:vale is so amazing. They've always been top idols, and they care so much about each other...”

“Indeed,” Iori agreed. “They always calm the atmosphere around us.”

It probably couldn’t have been easy for the duo to get to where they were now, and still be able to maintain such a good and healthy relationship with each other. They always worked together well on set, always gave good advice to their kouhai, and Iori didn’t think he’d ever seen them truly angry at each other. Sure, Yuki got jealous sometimes, but that much was understandable.

It was nothing at all like how things were between him and Riku now – tense, neither of them willing to be the first to apologise. It was ridiculous, and logically Iori knew it, but he couldn’t stand the thought that Riku wasn’t willing to be honest about his feelings with him. The least Riku could have done was to tell Iori why he was avoiding him and why he’d been so troubled for the past couple of days.

But Iori knew Riku was nothing if not stubborn. The alpha had proved that on multiple occasions, now. I guess it’s up to me to give in again, huh.

“Um-”

They blinked at each other, once more having spoken at the same time.

“You first, Nanase-san.”

“No, you first, Iori.”

“You’d better not say something along the lines of ‘it’s because you’re the centre now’ again...”

“-what’s wrong!? Momo-san!”

Both of their heads snapped towards the centre stage, where Momo was staring at Yuki with wide eyes.

“Momo...?” Yuki asked, his concern for his boyfriend written all over his face.

Momo’s expression was a mixture of shock and terror. “My voice... Every time I try to sing, my voice just doesn’t work...” the beta said, his lips quivering as if he was about to cry. “Yuki, what do I do?”

“Let’s try a few more times,” Yuki suggested, rubbing Momo’s arms in a small attempt to comfort him. He wasn’t able to do much, being in front of this many people. It would be far too intimate if he were to pull Momo into a hug and offer him an assuring kiss. “Maybe you’ll be okay in a bit. Don't be too worried.”

Heaving a small sigh, Momo nodded. “Okay. I’m sorry! Let’s try again!”

But no matter how many takes they took, Momo’s singing voice wasn’t heard, not once.

Chapter Text

“Ah- Ah- ah- Ah-! Ah—!”

Yuki looked at his partner with downturned lips, extremely concerned about how the beta was feeling. It seemed like he was in disbelief; Yuki couldn’t blame him. He felt the same way. “Momo...”

Momo turned to Yuki, brows knit in thought. “See? Did you hear that? My voice works just fine. I can get pretty loud too!” the beta said, sighing as he plopped onto the couch beside his boyfriend. Yuki was quick to wrap an arm around Momo’s shoulder, pulling the beta to his side. “But… why? When I try to sing, it’s as if something’s sealed my throat shut, and my voice just won’t come out. I wonder why?”

“It’ll be alright,” Yuki assured. “We’ll go to the hospital, and they’ll be able to help you.”

“Everything will be okay after I go to the throat doctor, right?” Momo asked, looking to Yuki for reassurance. “But my voice works just fine when I speak.”

Yuki hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should voice his thoughts. He didn’t want to insinuate anything, but he couldn’t help thinking that maybe Momo’s problem wasn’t a physical one. After all, Momo was right in saying that he had no problems speaking. It didn’t make sense that he would be able to speak and yet not be able to sing. “You should go to the psychosomatic medicine department, too.”

The way Momo pulled back with a frown was expected. “Why? I’m having a blast, though!” Momo exclaimed rather defensively. The way Yuki was putting things made Momo think of what he’d overheard the other night. Am I really so affected that Yuki’s still looking for Ban? “I’m not worried about anything right now! See, here’s a funny face! Ahaha, did you laugh?”

Yuki wasn’t fazed, his expression kept serious as he said, “Just in case. I’m worried for you.”

“Look!” Momo continued, sprawling across the couch and stretching. “I can relax too. Ta-dah. My whole body’s relaxed.”

“Momo.”

“...sorry,” Momo sighed, sitting back upright and leaning against Yuki. If he was having trouble singing because of his worry that Yuki would leave him after finding Ban, he didn’t quite know how to feel about that. He certainly couldn’t have Yuki finding out about how he felt.

The notion that he wasn’t able to sing because Yuki was hastening to look for Ban was appalling, even to himself. He could only imagine what Yuki would say to him if he knew that he was feeling like this. And it probably wouldn’t be too good to let Yuki find out that he’d been brooding about this, either. “Sorry I’m causing so much trouble... Please don’t hate me for this...”

“It’s alright, darling.”

“What should I do? If I continue on like this, unable to sing...”

Yuki pressed a kiss to Momo’s forehead. “You’re going to be okay, Momo. Believe me.”

Momo sighed again, though this time it was slightly more relieved than troubled. “Yuki...”

“Yeah.”

“Yuki, you’re so handsome...”

The alpha managed a small chuckle, nuzzling Momo’s cheek affectionately and eliciting a smile from the beta. “I know. Let's change out and go to the hospital together, alright? Then we can go home together and have dinner. How does that sound?”

“...can I have grilled meat?”

“You can have anything you want. Come on, let’s go.”

 

---

 

“I wonder what happened to Momo-san...” Riku muttered, taking the freshly brewed cup of tea from Mitsuki with a grateful smile. “Thanks, Mitsuki. I hope it’s nothing major...”

Beside him, Iori nodded in agreement. He knew first-hand how terrifying it was to disappoint the fans during a performance, although the Music Festa incident wasn’t quite the same as what had happened to Momo a few hours ago. He didn’t doubt that Momo was terrified by the possibility of not being able to sing ever again. “Indeed. It would be bad if Momo-san isn’t able to sing at all during their anniversary concert.”

“Have you heard about the graffiti around town?” Yamato chimed in. “It might be because of that – the whole ‘Give me back my song’ thing and whatnot.”

“I guess they’re referring to Re:vale covering Zero’s song,” Mitsuki commented. “To think that Re:vale would get such backlash, even though they’re so popular...”

“The things that are precious to us, and the things that are important to us. What we wish to do, and what we wish to protect. It's different for everyone,” Nagi said, pointedly looking at Mitsuki as he spoke. Mitsuki squirmed in his seat, feeling as though Nagi could see right through him. “Re:vale’s fans, Zero’s fans, and IDOLiSH7’s fans. They all want something different.”

Riku sighed, setting the cup on the table and staring fixedly at it. He could already hear Iori’s reply in his head, but he still had to say, “I wonder what people want IDOLiSH7 to do...”

“They want you to return to being the centre,” Iori replied immediately, just as Riku had expected.

“Not at all... there are tons of people who think you’re better as centre, Iori.”

Pursing his lips, Iori turned to Riku, grabbing him by the cheeks and forcing the alpha to meet his gaze. “I am doing my best right now to give you time to rest and recover, Nanase-san. Don't you think it’s rude if you just dismiss my efforts like this?”

“I-I’m sorry,” Riku mumbled.

“Sorry doesn’t cut it,” Iori continued. “I believe in you, we all do, so please believe more in yourself. And stop looking at stupid comments online. The fans don’t know what you’re going through.”

“Ichi’s right, Riku. It'd do you some good to stop obsessing over what the fans think.”

“Maybe they also think I shouldn’t emcee anymore...”

Yamato frowned at the beta. “What on earth are you saying? There's no one else in the group who talks as well as you do.”

Nagi nodded, an unusually serious expression on his face. “It’s exactly as he says, Mitsuki. Have the fans been saying bad things about you, too? You know we can’t possibly please everyone, and that there are many people who love the way you liven up the mood. Other emcees all love you!”

“But that’s not what the fans want...” Mitsuki trailed off.

Riku nodded. “If that’s the case, then I too...”

“Nanase-san-”

“If there’s something you can do, just do it,” Yamato said, cutting Iori off. “I mean, just look at MEZZO’s debut. No one wished it to happen at first. Not us, not the fans, but they’ve gotten somewhere. Us, too. Somehow, we’ve all come this far.”

“I sure hope you’re right, Yamato-san,” Mitsuki sighed, managing a small smile when Nagi bent down to peck his cheek. He still felt insecure, but he acknowledged that Yamato had a point. “I’ll try my best not to think about it, alright? I'm really sorry for worrying you, Nagi.”

“You don’t have to apologise to me,” Nagi assured. “I’ll always worry about you.”

“What about you, Nanase-san?” Iori asked, looking at Riku expectantly. He didn’t mean to sound demanding, but he genuinely was sick and tired of Riku avoiding him day in day out. He missed spending time together with his alpha without things being awkward between them. He knew it would be difficult for Riku not to think about the comments he’d read online – even Iori couldn’t help thinking about it.

Still, he hoped that the issue would blow over soon, and that Riku would be able to return as IDOLiSH7’s centre properly. His heat was coming up, as was Riku’s rut, and Iori really didn’t want things to be weird between him and Riku in that period. He'd just brood over it in the rare breaks he’d get during his heat, and that sounded extremely unappealing.

Riku pursed his lips. “I am sorry, Iori, but I don’t think I want to talk about it yet,” Riku said honestly. He knew it wasn’t the answer Iori wanted, and the omega’s scent went from expectant to disappointed. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear from me, and I want to be able to talk about it with you, but...”

Iori glanced at Yamato, Mitsuki, and Nagi. “Do you want to talk in private, Nanase-san?”

With a small sigh, Riku nodded. “That’d be nice. Goodnight, guys.”

“Night, Riku. Don't sleep too late.”

“Goodnight nii-san, Nikaidou-san, Rokuya-san.”

 

---

 

“So?” Iori asked, now seated on Riku’s bed.

The alpha sat on his beanbag, hugging a pillow to his chest and pouting. “I-”

“Stop apologising, Nanase-san. You know that isn’t what I want to hear now.”

“I know,” Riku sighed. “It’s just, I feel pathetic for feeling this way. I'm an alpha, your alpha, and I’m supposed to be IDOLiSH7’s centre. I need a little more time to wrap my head around how I feel. Is it okay if you wait a bit longer?”

“Can I say no?” Iori deadpanned, heaving a sigh of his own when Riku deflated. “I’m not angry at you. I just think that we should be able to be honest with each other about how we feel, especially because we’re in a relationship as a fated pair. I can tell how troubled you are, and it doesn’t exactly make me feel very good either.”

“I know...” Riku repeated. “Just a few more days. Please.”

“I can wait, on the condition that you stop avoiding me. Also, it’d be nice if we can resolve this before my heat and your rut,” Iori told him, allowing himself to smile when Riku nodded. “I know I told you to stop apologising, but there is something I feel that I deserve an apology for. Do you need me to spell it out for you, or...?”

Riku sighed again. “I used my alpha voice on you that night, right? It’s one of the reasons why I was avoiding you,” the alpha admitted shamefully. He'd realised what he’d done after the fact, but the damage had already been done. “I shouldn’t have done that, because I promised that I wouldn’t, and I know you were upset. I'm really sorry about what I did.”

Iori stared at Riku for a few seconds before shifting slightly to the side, making space on the bed and patting the now-empty space next to him. “Come here, Nanase-san. I accept your apology. I just hope that it doesn’t happen again. For real this time.”

Riku climbed onto his bed, sitting beside Iori and sighing softly when the omega leaned against him. The alpha nuzzled the top of Iori’s head, eliciting a contented purr from his boyfriend. “It’s been a while since we spent time together like this, hasn’t it.”

Nodding, Iori replied, “It’s been busy. I mean, I knew it wasn’t easy being the centre, but I don’t think I fully grasped how much pressure we’ve all been putting on you. I pushed you so hard despite knowing that your health wasn’t doing very well. I don’t think I’ve properly apologised for that.”

“You don’t have to,” Riku assured, shifting so that he was facing Iori. He leaned in to brush his lips against Iori’s, tongue prodding softly against the omega’s lower lip. Iori hummed appreciatively, parting his lips and allowing Riku’s tongue to dart into his mouth.

The alpha took his time exploring the inside of Iori’s mouth; it’d been a while since they’d made out like this, and Riku didn’t want to rush things. Iori didn’t mind, his arms moving to wrap around Riku’s neck and pulling Riku closer to him. When Riku carded his fingers through his hair, his other hand moving to rest against Iori’s hip, the omega let out a low moan.

He let Riku push him down onto the bed, keeping his arms around Riku’s neck as Riku’s tongue ran over his lower lip. They broke apart briefly for air, but Riku was quick to move back down to press kisses against Iori’s jaw, his neck. Riku pulled the collar of Iori’s shirt aside, exposing the omega’s collarbone and sucking on the skin there hard enough to leave a mark.

The moan Iori let out was louder than the first, and his eyes flew open in surprise, one hand immediately clamping itself over his mouth.

It was only then that Riku pulled back to hover over his boyfriend, lust-filled eyes met with Iori’s face, burning bright red in embarrassment. “I- it’s been a while,” the omega muttered, feeling extremely conscious about Riku's gaze that was fixed on his lips; Iori was sure they were rather red and swollen by now. “I really hope nii-san wasn’t in his room...”

“It’s not like he hasn’t made out with Nagi before,” Riku pouted, leaning in to kiss Iori again, although this time only on the cheek. Then he cupped Iori’s cheeks with both hands, forcing the omega to meet his gaze, and said, “I know we’re going through a lot now, but I need you to know that I love you. Even when I doubt myself, I won’t doubt that.”

Iori nodded with a small smile. “I won’t either. I love you too, Nanase-san. Everything I’m doing now, I’m doing for you. So you shouldn’t doubt that, either,” he said, chuckling when Riku flopped down onto the bed next to him. He lifted a hand to the spot where Riku had sucked at. “Did you really have to leave a mark, though?”

“Nobody’s going to see it, so it’s fine!” Riku protested. “Or, well, they’d better not!”

"Nanase-san,” Iori said, exasperated. He turned to bury his face in Riku’s shoulder and relishing in the alpha’s scent. His heat wasn’t due until another two and a half weeks, but already he felt awfully needy. He supposed it had to do with how distant they’d been for the past many weeks; despite the front he put up in front of everyone, Iori still was an omega, and Riku was his fated alpha. “I’m not going to undress in front of anyone, okay?”

“Even Mitsuki?”

Iori moved away from Riku, just enough to look at the alpha with a raised brow. “He’s seen me naked tons of times, Nanase-san. I've been showering with him since young,” he pointed out, only to be met with a disgruntled huff. “Fine, I won’t take off my shirt even in front of nii-san, at least until this mark fades. Though, if he was in his room, he likely already knows we were making out in here.”

“Speaking of Mitsuki,” Riku said with a slight frown. “Is he okay? He's been kind of out of it lately.”

“I... don’t know,” Iori admitted. Mitsuki had never been the type to confide in him when he was troubled, which admittedly frustrated Iori to no end. The beta was always listening to him vent his frustrations and giving him advice, but Iori wasn’t even reliable enough for Mitsuki to tell him whenever he was going through a tough time. “Nii-san has never been the type to share his problems with me.”

Riku nodded in understanding. “Tenn-nii never told me anything, either. I guess that’s just how it is as younger brothers, huh,” he said, shrugging helplessly and snuggling up to Iori once more. “Hey, Iori? Is it okay for us to sleep together tonight? If you’re not still too upset with me, I mean.”

“I don’t see why we can’t,” Iori conceded, smiling when Riku pressed another kiss onto his lips. “You haven’t been coughing as much recently, right? It's been quieter in the night, though I do still hear some coughing now and then. It doesn’t seem to have been as persistent as before.”

“Yup! It’s been a lot easier to sleep through the night,” Riku replied proudly, though he declined to mention that he had still lost sleep because of the comments he’d read on their fan page. They'd agreed not to talk about it for now, and Riku didn’t want to spoil the mood by brooding again. “How about we go and get ready for bed now? Sound good?”

“Yeah, sure,” Iori agreed. “Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for all of us.”

 

---

 

“Could we change this part a bit more...?” the cameraman asked hesitantly.

“How about we redo it?” Gaku suggested easily, and the cameraman’s face lit up.

“You sure?”

“It’s fine,” the alpha assured, glancing at Tenn and Ryuu and receiving affirmative nods. “Let’s go.”

They restarted the song from the top, and the three members of TRIGGER got back into their starting positions. The director signalled for them to begin, and they eased into the first steps of the sequence.

They were at a recording for a special episode of a variety show, and the director had come up with an action sequence specially for it. It involved a bit of running and jumping on a portable scaffolding, which was something they didn’t get to do very often. They danced on scaffoldings often enough, but rarely anything like an action sequence with running and jumping around.

Between their individual and group schedules, the three of them hadn’t had much time to practice the dance as a group. They had run through it thrice in the morning before heading to the recording studio, and twice together before the day of filming. Apart from that, though, they’d only been able to practice it on their own between schedules.

Despite that, it was surprising for Gaku to see Tenn wincing slightly as they headed backstage to change out of their stage costumes, and into casual wear before participating in the talk show section of the programme. It wasn’t until they made it to the changing room that Tenn heaved a heavy sigh, slipping his boot off and rotating his ankle slowly. “Shit,” the centre hissed, plopping down onto the nearest chair and shrugging his jacket off.

“Tenn, are you okay!?” Ryuu asked in alarm.

“Did you sprain it?” Gaku questioned, sounding almost incredulous. He didn’t think it was possible for Tenn to get injured, during a recording with an audience no less, although they were lucky enough that the programme wasn’t being aired live. “Can you continue?”

Gaku had already anticipated the way Tenn would glare at him, though he could hope that Tenn could be a little less snarky at times. Even when he was injured, he had to find a way to express his displeasure with Gaku. “I simply lost my footing on the step. And of course I can,” Tenn snapped. “When have I ever let the fans down?”

“Never,” Gaku said with a roll of the eyes. “Though I think they’d rather you admit when you’re unwell instead of pushing yourself so hard you end up in the hospital!”

“Guys, please, stop arguing!”

“We’ll tape it up for you!” one of the staff offered.

Tenn smiled gratefully at her, a 180-degree change from the attitude he’d had with Gaku just two seconds ago. Gaku stared at Tenn in disbelief as the younger said, “I’ll leave it up to you. I'm terribly sorry that I’m taking up your time like this.”

“If anything, we’re the ones who are terribly sorry!” the staff exclaimed apologetically. “You got injured because of our mistake on the scaffolding!”

“Not at all,” Tenn assured, though it was true that the step he’d slipped off hadn’t been screwed tightly enough, and had as a result tilted forward when Tenn had stepped on it. “I was not attentive enough.”

Gaku frowned as he watched the staff tape up Tenn’s ankle, noticing how Tenn bit on his lip in obvious discomfort. He opened his mouth to speak, ask Tenn again if he was sure he’d be okay, but Ryuu jabbed him in the side with his elbow and shook his head. “You know how stubborn Tenn is,” he said, as if Gaku needed Ryuu to remind him of the fact. “We’ll bring him to the hospital later, alright? Ah, but I do have a CM to film...”

Pressing his lips into a thin line, Gaku nodded. “It’s fine. I'll drag him there myself.”

The fans screamed in excitement suddenly, and Tenn’s gaze snapped to his teammates. None of them had changed yet, but it was fine even if they were still in their stage outfits. “The fans are waiting for us. Let's go.”

 

---

 

Tenn was silent as they got ready to leave the studio, careful not to put pressure on his injured ankle as he moved around the room to grab his belongings.

Gaku was equally as silent as he watched Tenn, easily noticing how Tenn was favouring his left ankle and the slight limp he walked with. It'd been good that they hadn’t had to dance or do any other vigorous movements in the latter part of the filming, though the host had requested that Tenn perform his favourite part of Leopard Eyes’ choreography for the audience.

If Gaku hadn’t been so used to seeing how Tenn usually danced, it would’ve been near impossible to notice that he was injured at all. Tenn hid his pain almost perfectly while he danced, his expression never faltering as he did so. But Gaku could see it in the way he’d danced, in the barely noticeable way he had sat back down with more force than usual.

“Do you need any help?” Gaku called out, not wanting to sit and watch while Tenn was possibly aggravating his injury. Ryuu had already left with Anesagi for his next schedule, and while the beta had offered to come back and drive the two of them home, Tenn had politely declined. He’d reasoned that he would be able to get home alone, though Gaku didn’t feel good letting him do that.

Tenn huffed in annoyance. “I sprained an ankle. I didn’t break a bone, Gaku.”

“I’m just offering,” Gaku grumbled, wondering again why he was interested in Tenn. He got up from his seat abruptly. “I’m going to see if I can get you an ice pack for that. How swollen is it?”

“It isn’t that bad,” Tenn said. “Be quick, or I’m leaving without you.”

Gaku rolled his eyes and grabbed his phone before heading out of the changing room.

He went straight to where he knew the pantry was, greeting a few staff on the way there and approaching the lady who was seated inside. “Hi, sorry,” he said, startling her and causing her to jump slightly in her seat. She turned to him with surprise written all over her face. “Is there an ice pack in the freezer here? Or do you know where I can get one?”

“Oh, Yaotome-san!” she exclaimed. “Yes, of course! Let me get it for you!”

“That would be very helpful, thank you.”

She took the ice pack out of the freezer, handing it to Gaku with wide eyes. “A-are you injured?”

“Ah, no, it isn’t for me,” Gaku replied, opting not to mention that it was Tenn who’d been injured. He took the ice pack with a grateful smile, and he was rather sure he didn’t imagine the slightly bashful blush she wore. “Thank you so much. I’ll see you around.”

The alpha didn’t wait around for her reply, immediately going back to the changing room where he hoped Tenn was still waiting. He didn’t doubt that Tenn would leave without him, if he took too long. It didn’t matter that he was injured; sometimes Gaku thought that the younger was a masochist, with how he had a penchant to push himself past his limits.

Evidently, Gaku had returned quickly enough, because Tenn was still seated on the couch with what seemed to be a permanent frown on his face. He looked up from his wrapped-up ankle when Gaku walked back into the room, and for a brief moment he seemed relieved. “Took you long enough. Lock the door.”

Gaku raised a brow, but did as told. “What’s with that?”

Tenn tugged his shoe off, face scrunching up in pain for a fraction of a second before he schooled his expression back into a neutral one. “I don’t want anyone apart from the staff who were on set to know that I sprained my ankle. It's lame.”

“What’s lame is you being embarrassed about it,” Gaku retorted, walking over and sitting on the couch beside Tenn. The younger held a hand out for the ice pack, but Gaku didn’t hand it over to him, earning himself an odd look from the centre.

Instead, he pulled Tenn’s leg onto his lap, and Tenn let out an undignified yelp. “What’re you doing?”

“Icing your ankle for you,” Gaku said nonchalantly, removing the tightly-wound tape around Tenn’s ankle and placing the ice pack on the area that was the most swollen. It'd been around an hour since Tenn had first sprained his ankle, and it was red and throbbing. “You’d think a pro would take better care of himself.”

“It was an accident,” Tenn huffed indignantly, cheeks slightly flushed in embarrassment. It was bad enough that he’d injured himself, although he couldn’t have helped that the scaffolding hadn’t been secured properly. He didn’t need, nor did he want, Gaku to baby him like this. It made him think of the confession from the other night, and of the relationship that he probably wouldn’t ever have with the elder. “I can do it myself, you know.”

Gaku looked up from Tenn’s ankle, blinking when he saw that Tenn’s cheeks were tinged pink. “You really don’t need to be so embarrassed, Tenn,” he said. “Getting injured is normal. It's not like Ryuu and I haven’t gotten injured before. If I recall, you like to make fun of me when it happens.”

Tenn averted his gaze from Gaku’s, hyperaware of Gaku’s fingers gently adjusting the position of his ankle on his lap. It was strange to be treated so gently by Gaku instead of receiving the usual snide comment from him, especially because Tenn was now aware that Gaku held romantic feelings for him. “I am not embarrassed about getting injured,” Tenn said firmly. “I just don’t want more people to worry about me. Besides, it’s weird that you’re this concerned about me. You're creeping me out.”

“Is this... because I confessed to you?” Gaku asked incredulously. He didn’t want to sound too high and mighty about it, but there was no other reason that he could think of for Tenn’s odd reaction. “Tenn, I told you not to overthink it. I'm just worried about you in my capacity as TRIGGER’s leader.”

“Then don’t treat me like glass,” Tenn snapped, more forcefully than he’d intended to. He saw the frown on Gaku’s face, and Tenn regretted the way he’d spoken to his leader. If he hadn’t been that harsh, though, he wasn’t sure if Gaku might get the wrong impression. The last thing Tenn needed was for his own feelings for Gaku to be found out. “It’s hard not to think about the confession when you suddenly start treating me nicely after it.”

Heaving a soft sigh, Gaku looked at the younger with pursed lips. “Then what do you suggest I do?”

Tenn wrinkled his nose, trying to come up with a way to phrase his words nicely. “Just treat me like you usually do, okay?” he settled on saying eventually. It was nice to have Gaku spoil him a little, instead of always bickering with him, but Tenn didn’t want to lead Gaku on. He also didn’t want to entertain any possibility of getting together with Gaku, which he’d been doing an awful lot in the twelve or so days since Gaku had confessed to him.

Gaku sighed again, nodding in response. “I’ll try. But,” he said, and Tenn raised his brow, “you’ll let me go to the hospital with you after this. I told Ryuu that I would, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that our centre gets home safely.”

Tenn looked at Gaku for a long moment, contemplating his choices. If he kept refusing Gaku’s help, it’d appear suspicious, considering he did have a point. It wasn’t odd for TRIGGER’s leader to be concerned about their centre’s wellbeing. “Fine, but I am not taking a soba delivery vehicle home this time.”

“I didn’t drive that here, in case you forgot,” Gaku snorted. “Did your sprain cause some memory loss? We'll just take a cab to the nearest hospital, get your ankle checked out, and then I’ll send you home. Is that alright?”

“It’s not like I really have a choice,” Tenn replied. “I wouldn’t want to be visibly injured when we have that joint practice with IDOLiSH7 in a few days.”

“Don’t want to worry Nanase, huh. Then we’d better get going,” Gaku said, removing the ice pack and grabbing a few tissues to pat the area dry. He made sure not to apply too much pressure on the injured ankle, and while Tenn was glad, he also couldn’t help thinking that it was because Gaku liked him that he was being so gentle. “I’m going to return this. Do you need help taping your ankle up again?”

“No, it’s fine, I can handle this.”

“Right. I'll be right back.”

Tenn watched Gaku leave the room and, once the elder was out of earshot, heaved a sigh. Gaku probably didn’t do it intentionally, but his actions were making Tenn fall even harder for him. It was almost laughable how easy it was for Tenn to be moved by a few simple gestures, if not for the fact that it was true. “How pathetic,” Tenn chuckled humourlessly to himself.

He worked on taping his ankle back up, managing to finish it just as Gaku got his stuff ready.

The taxi ride to the hospital was painfully awkward for Tenn, like being alone with Gaku always was. He could only hope that one day, preferably in the near future, he would be able to get over these feelings he had.

He could only hope.

Chapter Text

Tsumugi looked at the seven idols lined up in front of her, aware of how nervous some of them seemed to be. Riku and Mitsuki looked the most uptight – she knew that they had been brooding over what the fans had been saying recently.

Iori, too, appeared troubled. He didn’t show it on his face, preferring to maintain a blank expression like he always did, but Tsumugi had been their manager for long enough that she was able to see right through him.

She could understand why they were tense, considering how their team dynamics had been as of late. MEZZO had been getting along great, the silver lining in the midst of the turmoil the others had been going through. As their manager, she felt that she’d failed to do her job. They were idols, and their job was to keep their fans happy, but her job as their manager was to ensure that her idols were well taken care of, and she hadn’t done it well.

A lengthy discussion with Otoharu and Banri had made her finally realise what it was that she had to do. Before thinking about whether or not the fans were happy with the centre change, she first had to make sure that they resolved any inner conflict that they were having, be it within themselves or with each other.

“I love IDOLiSH7! IDOLiSH7 is the best idol group!”

Riku blinked in surprise at the beta’s sudden exclamation, turning to look at Iori as if the omega would be able to explain her behaviour. Iori looked just as confused as Riku was. “...what is this, all of a sudden...”

“I’m a big fan of IDOLiSH7,” she continued, not responding to Iori’s question. “Thanks to everyone’s smiles, everyone’s singing, and everyone’s dancing; you guys always make me happy. Thank you so much.”

Mitsuki felt tears well up in his eyes. “Manager...”

Nagi glanced at his boyfriend, reaching for Mitsuki’s hand and squeezing it reassuringly. Mitsuki squeezed it back, and Nagi turned back to look at their manager. “Tsumugi...”

"Iori-san! Your work as centre has been really successful! Everyone’s happy for you!”

Iori barely managed not to look at Riku, not wanting to make Riku upset again. They'd promised to set the issue aside until Riku was ready to talk about it, and Iori didn’t see a need to unnecessarily make the alpha upset.

“Yamato-san! Thank you for supporting everyone, even though you’re busy with all of your work as an actor!”

Yamato raised a brow, nodding slowly in response.

“Mitsuki-san! Thanks to Mitsuki-san, we’ve been getting great reviews on the TV show! The show is really funny!”

Mitsuki sniffled, using his free hand to wipe at his eyes. “Thanks...”

“Tamaki-san! All of the staff members have been praising you! They told me that you’ve gotten easier to talk to!”

Tamaki managed a small smile, noticing how Sougo’s scent turned happy. He didn’t need to look at his boyfriend to know that Sougo was likely also wearing a smile on his face. Yamato did say that it made Sougo happy whenever Tamaki was praised. “...thanks.”

“Sougo-san! Every station has expressed gratitude towards you for cooperating and helping them when they run into trouble!”

Sougo nodded. “I’d like to thank them too.”

“Nagi-san! With Nagi-san’s overwhelming beauty, you’ve made all the staff members and other idols your captive!”

“Thank you. I am your captive, you know,” Nagi replied with a wink. Mitsuki jabbed him in the side with his elbow, and Nagi looked down to see that Mitsuki was chuckling exasperatedly. The alpha nearly heaved a sigh of relief; he felt like it’d been forever since he’d seen his boyfriend smile.

"Riku-san! Riku-san’s singing is the best in the world!”

Riku swallowed past the lump in his throat. He thought of the comments he’d been seeing recently and couldn’t help but wonder if Tsumugi was saying this just to make him feel better. Logically, he knew that he shouldn’t let himself be so bothered by the fans’ comments. Everyone had told him that. But he still couldn’t help that his thoughts wandered back to it ever so often.

“No matter its shape or form, IDOLiSH7 is what it is because you’re the centre.”

Pushing his negative thoughts away, Riku nodded. Tsumugi was just as much a fan of theirs as those on the internet. In fact, she’d been their very first fan, and if she thought that Riku was this important to IDOLiSH7, then he wanted to believe her, at least for the time being. He didn’t feel any less pathetic about his inferiority complex, but he could try to focus more on the positive things. “T-thank you!”

Tsumugi smiled. “I’ll say it again: IDOLiSH7 is the best idol group. I’ve been cheering you guys on, and have been ever since that basketball match in this room! Believe in these words from me. If any of the members were missing or replaced, it’d be incomplete! The IDOLiSH7 standing here right now is perfect!

“Keep your heads held high and your shoulders squared! And stay true to yourselves, IDOLiSH7! From here on out, and forever... I’ll be in your care. I look forward to working with everyone!”

The seven members of IDOLiSH7 nodded in unison, each feeling more confident about themselves than before. “Yes!”

From the doorway, Banri heaved a soft sigh of relief. “I’m glad... Everyone’s smiling so nicely...”

“They really are.”

Banri jumped in surprise, turning around to see Otoharu standing behind him. One of the cons of being with a beta, in Banri’s honest opinion, was the lack of a scent. It was all too easy for Otoharu to sneak up on him and surprise him. “Wah-! So you were looking in on them too, President?”

“Of course I’d be curious! Those boys are our kaiseki bento, after all!” Otoharu exclaimed, and Banri chuckled in mild amusement. He could understand where the beta was coming from; it’d taken a lot of effort on everybody’s parts to get IDOLiSH7 to where they were today.

“We’ve put our heart and soul into making it, and it’s the grandest of feasts. Before they seasoned it any further, Tsumugi-kun properly reminded them of that fact. All that’s left is for those kids to stand up and face the issues within themselves, bit by bit. “

Nodding in agreement, Banri nudged Otoharu, gesturing in the direction of the office. “Let’s get back to work, President. If we can finish up early tonight, I could make some food and we can bring it over to the dorm for the boys.”

Otoharu’s face lit up. “Oh! A rare treat from Banri-kun! Do you think you can make that-”

“-yakiniku you like? Of course,” Banri said. “Come on. I’ll even make my special fried rice, just for you.”

 

---

 

Yamato took a swig of beer, sighing as he leaned back on the couch. “Our Manager sure was amazing. It kind of struck a chord with me...”

Mitsuki sighed, nodding absentmindedly in response. Tsumugi’s pep talk had given him a little more confidence in himself, but now that he was alone with his thoughts again, he couldn’t help beating himself up about what he’d overheard at the store. “Yeah...”

Yamato glanced at Mitsuki, wondering what he should do to cheer him up. It was hard to see everyone struggling so much to have confidence in themselves, and as the leader, Yamato’d always felt that it was his responsibility to help lift their spirits. “Mitsu, I’ll give you something good,” he said. Mitsuki looked at him in mild confusion, clearly not knowing what Yamato was talking about. “Put your hand out.”

“Something good?” Mitsuki repeated, holding his hand out even though he still didn’t know what was going on. “What is it?”

“Here.”

Blinking at the nothingness that Yamato had placed in his palm, Mitsuki looked back up at the leader, no less confused than before. “...there’s nothing,” he said, briefly wondering if Yamato had lost it.

“It’s something called moderation,” Yamato told him simply. Mitsuki remained silent, and Yamato couldn’t help but sigh again. He admired Mitsuki’s passion and how he always tried his best in everything he did, but that wasn’t always the best thing to do. Mitsuki didn’t need to constantly be trying so hard, especially when he’d already been acknowledged by so many people. “You taught me how to give it my all, so I’ll teach you how to do things in moderation.”

Tears welled up in Mitsuki’s eyes, not for the first time that day. “Yamato-san...”

“It’s fine if you take it easy every once in a while,” Yamato continued, by now used to how quick Mitsuki was to cry. If he were to be honest with himself, Yamato was almost jealous of the fact that Mitsuki was able to cry at all, despite already being 23. Yamato couldn’t even remember when the last time he’d cried was. “It’s okay if you don’t push yourself. Personally, I think you’re the best when you’re just being yourself, Mitsu.

“It can’t be helped. We’re the only people who know the Mitsu who cried in the bathroom. Some people only know the smiling and laughing Mitsu, so there’s bound to be a few things they don’t understand.”

“You dumbass...” Mitsuki mumbled, aware of how his voice was trembling in an effort not to cry. He knew that Yamato was right, and that the fans couldn’t possibly know the vulnerable side of Mitsuki. Sure, he cried when they won big awards, but those had been tears of joy. He’d never really shown any vulnerability onscreen before, and he definitely never showed his insecurities. With a watery chuckle, Mitsuki said, “You’re saying something so out of character...”

Yamato let out a small chuckle of his own, nodding in agreement with the younger. “That’s true.”

Chuckling again, Mitsuki said, “I’ll take this moderation and treasure it.”

“What,” Yamato deadpanned, somehow managing to sound disappointed. “I went through great pains to give it to you, so why not use it?”

“Nah,” Mitsuki replied, this time managing a more genuine laugh. “I’ll use it when I’ve truly hit rock bottom. If I think of it that way, then I can keep on trying. Because I can keep on going. Thank you, Yamato-san.”

Waving Mitsuki’s thanks off, Yamato opened a new can of beer, holding it out and saying, “If you want to thank me, then join me for a drink. Onii-san's been lonely lately and wants to destress.”

“You’re always lonely,” Mitsuki snorted, taking the can from Yamato. “If Nagi complains that I smell like alcohol tonight, I’m going to tell him that you forced me into it.”

“Yeah, yeah. Tell him whatever you want. Bottoms up!”

 

---

 

Iori glanced in the direction of Riku’s room with a frown, grimacing at the wheezing coughs that could only be coming from his alpha. Riku had far less attacks now than he had been having a few weeks ago, but they were still considerably intense.

After a few minutes of listening to Riku try and fail to stabilise his breathing, Iori got up from his chair, heading to the kitchen to prepare a hot drink that would hopefully help reduce the coughing.

It took him only three minutes to finish making a cup of warm honey with milk, and Iori made his way back to the bedrooms. When he got back, he could still hear Riku coughing, although it seemed to be a little better than before. Riku's scent, too, was calmer as compared to just now, but Iori was still able to catch the underlying hint of worry that’d been plaguing Riku for the past couple of weeks.

He hesitated to enter Riku’s room, not wanting to bring up any unnecessary thoughts in Riku. Even if he’d said that he would wait for Riku to come to terms with what he felt, that he wouldn’t push for an explanation for the time being, he knew that his presence would probably still cause his alpha to subconsciously brood.

Riku would definitely already know that Iori was standing outside his room based on his scent, but he didn’t call out to the omega, and Iori didn’t move from his spot. He only snapped out of his inner conflict when he heard a door open, and Iori turned to see Nagi coming out of his room.

He walked over towards Nagi, wanting to move away from Riku’s room just in case the alpha overheard them speaking. “...Rokuya-san.”

Nagi glanced over at Iori, raising a brow when he noticed the still-steaming drink in Iori’s hand. It wasn’t hard to guess who the drink was for. “What’s the matter?”

“I’ve been hearing coughing from Nanase-san's room for a while now. Could you take this drink to him?” Iori requested, only to be met with a sigh from the blond. He could guess why Nagi seemed reluctant to do him this simple favour, but Iori didn’t really want to cause Riku any more stress. “In the past, Rokuya-san's words have saved me before. Please cheer up Nanase-san as well.”

Nagi continued to stare at Iori, seemingly unimpressed with Iori’s logic. “Why?”

The omega pursed his lips. “Because if he sees my face, he might start to think about unnecessary things again...” Iori replied honestly. He didn’t see a need to lie to Nagi, considering that he was asking the alpha for a favour.

No matter how things had appeared the other night, Iori knew that Riku wouldn’t be able to help thinking about the things that had been bothering him. Riku had never been a particularly good liar. Iori could avoid the topic of the centre change completely, but Riku would still think about it.

A few seconds of contemplation later, Nagi shook his head. “No. That is not my job to do,” he said, and Iori could barely conceal his disappointment. He'd expected that Nagi would have said as much, though he’d still hoped. “Iori, you should bring it to him.”

“Rokuya-san...”

“Riku’s waiting,” Nagi urged with an encouraging smile. “If you’ll excuse me, I have my own boyfriend to tend to.”

With that said, Nagi walked past Iori to go to the living area where Mitsuki likely was. Iori watched him leave, sighing under his breath for what was probably the hundredth time that evening. Resigning himself to his fate and hoping that Riku wouldn’t be too bothered by his presence, Iori turned to go to Riku’s room.

At the same time, the door clicked open, and Riku stepped out, his gaze immediately meeting Iori’s. He didn’t look surprised, which was to be expected, though he did look as if he wasn’t sure what to say. “Um...”

“Nanase-san...”

Riku bit on his lip hesitantly, and Iori hoped that the alpha wasn’t about to bring up the fans’ comments he’d seen online. Not unless Riku had managed to overcome his inner turmoil in just two days. “I’ve been looking online, but...” Riku trailed off. Iori fought the slight urge to grimace; Riku seemed to be really troubled, and Iori’s omegan instincts demanded that he comforted his alpha, though he hadn’t the slightest clue how. “I guess it’s not something you can figure out alone after all...

“What would you like as thanks for subbing as the centre?”

“Excuse me?”

“A present of sorts,” Riku explained. “A token of my gratitude.”

“I don’t... huh?”

Riku pouted, not understanding Iori’s confusion at all. “I said-”

“I know what you said,” Iori sighed. “Why so sudden?”

“I’ve been thinking about it,” the alpha said, stopping to cough a few times, “and I don’t think I’ll be able to properly deal with what I’m feeling without thanking you first.”

“Before any of that,” Iori said, holding out the cup he’d been holding for the past ten minutes, “drink this. And maybe we can talk about this in your room. I don’t want to disturb the others, and I don’t think you really want them to overhear our conversation.”

Riku took the cup gratefully, taking a few small sips and letting the drink warm his chest before he asked, “Actually, is it okay if we go to your room?”

Iori shrugged in response. “I don’t see why not.”

The two went into Iori’s room, and the omega locked the door before moving to stand in front of Riku. He pulled his chair over, gesturing for Riku to sit and sighing when the alpha shook his head. “Fine, I’ll sit,” he huffed, plopping himself on the chair before looking back up at Riku. “So? A present?”

“Yeah,” Riku said. Iori opened his mouth to speak, but Riku cut him off with, “And don’t give me some obscure answer like ‘I just want you to stop concerning yourself with the comments on our fan page’. I want to actually give you something. A physical item.”

“And this will help you start to get over yourself?” Iori asked, sounding slightly incredulous.

He didn’t want to doubt Riku, but his boyfriend had always been easily bothered by others’ opinions of him. Iori’d always thought that it had something to do with having someone as amazing as Kujo Tenn as a twin brother; he didn’t doubt that Riku had the tendency to compare himself to Tenn, but what did he know? He wasn’t sure if it would be so easy for Riku to stop thinking about what the fans were saying.

Even if he did get over it, who was to say that he wouldn’t read more comments a few weeks later and start brooding again? Iori wasn’t sure if Riku could do that, even if he wanted to believe in the alpha.

Riku nodded confidently, and Iori responded with a nod of his own. “Alright then. Also, I wouldn’t have said that to you. I love you, Nanase-san, and I want to help you, but I do have things that I want,” Iori said pointedly, and Riku could only let out a sheepish smile. “Do you think you’ll be able to acquire a full set of the Usamimi Friends Tokyo Skytree collaboration goods? With all the store bonuses?”

Riku made a face, and Iori couldn’t help the snicker that escaped his lips. “I’m kidding. I'm only missing two of the bonus bromides,” he said, smiling innocently when Riku shot him an accusatory look.

“You’re mean, Iori.”

“I’ll send you the ones that I’m missing,” Iori continued, paying no heed to Riku’s whining. He spent no more than two minutes to send the pictures and details of the items he was missing – he had a photo album in his phone specifically for goods that he had yet to get. “Done. Was there anything else?”

“Not particularly,” Riku replied, finishing the rest of his drink and setting the cup down on the table. “You know what Manager said this afternoon? About how IDOLiSH7 is what it is because I’m the centre? Do you believe that, too?”

Iori stared at Riku. “I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, Nanase-san, but...” he trailed off, slightly hesitant to say what was on his mind. There wasn’t anything embarrassing about it, per se, but Iori still found it difficult to openly express how he felt sometimes. Riku looked at him expectantly, and Iori took a deep breath. “I was the one who pushed for you to be our centre from the very start. Manager agreed with it, of course, but I would never have accepted an IDOLiSH7 whose centre wasn’t you.”

It was Riku’s turn to stare at Iori, the alpha feeling his cheeks slowly warm. “That’s... You had that much faith in me, even back then?” Riku asked in a small voice, and Iori nodded firmly. “I see... Thank you, Iori. I'll do my best not to let you down again. Then, um, goodnight!”

The alpha grabbed the empty cup, escaping from Iori’s room before the omega could get another word out. Iori was left to stare at the door in disbelief, wondering how it was possible for someone to be so incredibly dense. “You’ve never let me down, Nanase-san, you idiot,” Iori muttered to himself. “Not once. The only one I’ve ever been disappointed in is myself.”

 

---

 

Tamaki looked around for Sougo, breaking into a smile when he spotted the omega standing by the wall beside the exit. Sougo had already been looking in his direction, so Tamaki hurried over to his boyfriend, and the two of them exited the studio together.

MEZZO had had a morning schedule together before going off to individual photoshoots. They'd agreed to meet and go for dinner together, and since Sougo’s shoot had ended earlier, he’d gone over to the studio that Tamaki had been shooting at.

“So earlier, I got out of the studio,” Tamaki said, tucking his hands into his pockets as they walked. “And there was a lady waiting for me...”

For a moment, Sougo panicked, wondering if said lady was the girl he’d met several days ago. It took all of two seconds for him to realise that Tamaki wouldn’t possibly refer to her as a lady, and if it truly was Aya like Sougo suspected, the alpha would never be this calm about it. “Huh... What kind of person was she?”

“A lady with long hair.”

Sougo nodded in understanding, relieved by the assurance that it really wasn’t the girl he’d met. He still had no idea why Tamaki was telling him this, though it was nice that the alpha was sharing details about his day with him. “I see... What did she do?”

“She started crying when she saw my face,” Tamaki recalled with a slight grimace. Sougo chuckled at his alpha’s expression; he could imagine how disconcerting it’d been for Tamaki, to suddenly have a lady crying at the sight of him. “She... she said she was happy.”

A small smile stretched across Sougo’s face, and pride welled up in his chest. “I see. She must’ve been very moved because she was able to meet you,” he said.

“She said... that I look like I’ve been giving it my all lately, so she was happy,” Tamaki continued, and Sougo’s smile widened. It always made him happy whenever he heard that Tamaki had been praised for something, be it big or small.

Sougo could never quite figure out if it was because he was glad that people supported Tamaki, or if he was proud of how far the alpha had come since they’d first started out as MEZZO. He didn’t want to be cocky, but Tamaki could never have become who he was today without Sougo.

“After hearing that, I kind of just... remember what Yukirin told me. To make sure Aya has fun, on the other side of the TV screen.”

He also told you that you could do as you liked, Sougo thought dryly. That part was a bit of a problem.

“Y’know, Souchan,” Tamaki said, and Sougo snapped out of his thoughts. “When you told me you were happy, and when you got mad for me when my dad showed up on that show... and when that lady cried earlier – I felt the same thing as I did all the other times.”

Sougo looked at Tamaki quizzically, not fully understanding what he was getting at. The alpha’s brows knit in thought, trying to come up with a way to phrase how he was feeling. “I don’t really know how to put it into words, but... I realised that people were watching over me.”

When Sougo continued giving Tamaki the same confused look, Tamaki sighed. “Not just watching me normally, but...” he struggled to find the words he was looking for. “Hmm... How should I put it... Like, we’re always connected...?”

“Ah,” Sougo said, finally getting what Tamaki was trying to say. ”I see...”

“...what?”

“People have always been watching me, so I wasn’t quite able to get mad or cry, but...” Sougo looked at his boyfriend fondly. He hadn’t ever thought of things this way; he’d always wondered why Tamaki was so quick to get angry and upset at anything that he didn’t agree with. He hadn’t considered that maybe it’d been Tamaki’s way of drawing others’ attention to himself. “You’re the opposite, huh.”

Tamaki gave Sougo the same confused look that the omega had given him. “Opposite...?”

“Because there wasn’t anyone watching over you,” Sougo explained, his smile turning wistful, “Because you thought there wasn’t... You had no choice but to raise your voice and get angry. You fell into the habit of protecting yourself and your loved ones.”

Tamaki was silent, and Sougo’s hand twitched with the urge to reach for the alpha. They were still walking down the busy streets of Shinjuku and Sougo didn’t want to risk being seen, although the residential area was considerably quieter than the shopping district. “Everyone’s watching you,” he told Tamaki, voice gentle. “When you’re in pain, and when you’re frustrated – you don’t have to be angry all by yourself anymore. There are plenty of people who understand how you feel. I'm sure everyone’s watching over you, including me.”

“Souchan...”

“I promise, even when your voice is quieter than pianissimo, I'll do my best so that I’ll always hear it regardless,” Sougo said, truly meaning what he said. He’d always thought it unfair that Tamaki had gone through so much at such a tender age. Having a good-for-nothing father, having his mother collapse and pass away from overwork, and then having his only remaining relative be taken away from him – he couldn’t even begin to comprehend how that must have felt.

He couldn’t deny that Tamaki did do things that were less than tolerable at times, and that he’d once thought of Tamaki as an ill-mannered brat. It'd taken some time for him to understand that Tamaki only acted that way because, while he’d had Sawamura at the orphanage to guide and love him, he had spent most of his childhood doing what he could to protect himself and Aya from the harsh realities of the world.

And now, realising that Tamaki often lashed out not just to protect himself, but also because he didn’t know how else to convey his cry for help, Sougo couldn’t really be upset at Tamaki for whatever he’d done in the past. Tamaki simply hadn’t learnt any other way to communicate how he felt to others.

“If I make you upset, then I’ll get mad first,” Sougo promised. “So, you don’t have to raise your fists anymore. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Tamaki nodded slowly. “...I think I understand...”

“I’m glad.”

“I... What should I do for you then, Souchan?”

“Let’s see...” Sougo hummed thoughtfully. “I can get angry much more readily compared to before, but after I turned 20, I’ve been unable to cry in front of others. So perhaps, when I’m sad, cry in my stead.”

“Got it,” Tamaki replied. It was true that Sougo didn’t cry in front of the others. Even in front of Tamaki, he’d cried only once, and that’d been after his taking of heat suppressants had been exposed. For as much as Sougo had done for him, Tamaki could do at least this for the omega. “I’ll do it. But, Souchan. Is it possible if you get angry a little less readily at me?”

Sougo burst into laughter, his scent radiating with amusement, and Tamaki looked at his boyfriend oddly. He didn’t see how that was a strange request to make. He certainly didn’t want to be threatened by a potato peeler or computer. “I’ll try my best. Thank you, Tamaki-kun.”

“That doesn’t sound reassuring at all...” Tamaki mumbled under his breath, choosing not to question Sougo any further when the omega turned to him with a knowing smile. “Oh, let’s eat here. I could use a free refill of noodles.”

Chapter Text

“Hello, this is Takanashi Productions,” Banri said with practiced ease. He nodded as the person on the other end spoke, although it wasn’t as if they could see him. Then his eyes widened in surprise, and he asked, “What? What!? Really!? Yes! I will relay it to them immediately!”

From the desk opposite of him, Tsumugi raised a brow. “What’s the matter, Banri-san?”

“The producer has given the okay!” Banri exclaimed excitedly. For a moment, Tsumugi couldn’t figure out what producer Banri was talking about; they had a lot of ongoing discussions with various producers and directors regarding all sorts of activities. It wasn’t until Banri elaborated, “Both members of MEZZO have been officially cast in the drama!” that the beta put two and two together.

“They did it...!”

“They really did! It seems that the director had given it some more thought after seeing Tamaki-kun's recent behaviour!” Banri explained, still buzzing with excited energy. He'd been hoping that the director would reconsider his decision, especially after he’d cooked specially for him. It'd taken a little over two weeks, but at least the director had finally changed his mind. “The theme song is, of course, Koi no Kakera! It’s just as the President said! This song helped MEZZO take a step forward!”

Tsumugi nodded, smiling just as brightly as Banri was. “Yes! I’ll go and tell them right now!”

“I’ll go and tell the President!”

They both left their desks in a haste, and Tsumugi immediately headed to the dorm. Both members of MEZZO had ended work for the day, and she could only hope that they weren’t out somewhere.

It took her only a few minutes to drive over, and to her relief, it was Sougo who opened the door to let her in. “Manager?” the omega asked in confusion, wondering what she was doing at the dorm this late in the evening. “Did you need something?”

“Is Tamaki-san in?” she asked, receiving a nod in response. “Great! I have something to tell both of you, so please fetch him and meet me in the living area!”

“Okay...?” Sougo replied unsurely, turning to go to Tamaki’s room.

Tsumugi went on ahead to the living area, taking a seat at the table beside a mildly disgruntled Yamato. She'd given him a call on her way over, telling him that there was something she needed him to do, and while Yamato hadn’t been too enthused about it, he hadn’t been able to say no. Her offer of a meal together was hard to decline. “So, what’s it that you needed me for?” he asked.

“You’ll find out soon,” Tsumugi promised with an innocent smile.

Yamato could only shoot a deadpan stare at the manager; he could already tell that her request would be bothersome to deal with, to say the least. His suspicions were confirmed when Sougo came into the room with Tamaki in tow, the alpha looking extremely annoyed that he’d been disturbed. “You wanted to tell us something, Manager?” Tamaki grumbled. “Souchan made me die in my game.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Tsumugi said, not at all sounding sorry. “But I have exciting news! MEZZO is going to co-star in a drama!”

“MEZZO’s going to co-star in a drama?” Sougo repeated, wondering if he’d heard wrongly. “Was it the one that you mentioned previously? The one that you were thinking of using MEZZO’s new song as the theme song for?”

Tsumugi nodded, delighted that Sougo remembered. It hadn’t been that long since she’d first told them about the new song, but they hadn’t had much of a chance to practice it since then. “Yes! The theme song will be Koi no Kakera!”

Tamaki let the frown slip off his face, and he tilted his head slightly in curiosity. It was annoying to not be able to tell what Tsumugi felt through her scent. Even if Tamaki personally felt that she was happy, he couldn’t be entirely sure. He'd angered people before, assuming that they were feeling a certain way when they in fact hadn’t been. “Manager, are you happy?”

“Yes!”

“Then, I’ll do my best.”

Sougo looked at his boyfriend with an approving smile, glad that Tamaki seemed to be cooperative.

“Thank you very much!” Tsumugi exclaimed gratefully, visibly pleased that Tamaki was willing to work hard as well. “It appears that the director has taken a liking to the two of you and would like to meet you guys as soon as possible!”

“I’m glad...” Sougo muttered in relief. “See? There are people out there who’ve been watching you!”

Tamaki’s responding laughter was relieved as well. He knew what Sougo had told him, and he knew that there were many fans who were watching him, but he also knew that he hadn’t been very well-liked by hosts and directors. If he had to be honest, he hadn’t fully believed what Sougo had told him until yesterday. “Yeah.”

“But a drama, huh...” Sougo trailed off, now worried for a completely different reason. He had no experience at all when it came to acting in a drama, unless he counted the police- and school-setting mini dramas they’d acted out for An IDOLiSH Night with You. But there was no point comparing this and that – they were on two completely different levels. “I’m not too confident in my acting...”

“That’s fine!” Tsumugi assured. “We’ve invited an excellent instructor who’s currently working at the forefront of acting, just for you two!”

“An excellent instructor?” the couple echoed, turning to look at Yamato in unison. They'd been wondering why the leader had been sitting there with them as they discussed the drama, and now it seemed like an extremely stupid thing to wonder.

The moment the words left Tsumugi’s mouth, Yamato was scowling. “This is what you needed me for?”

Beaming, Tsumugi nodded. “Yes! I trust that you won’t go back on your word, Yamato-san.”

Yamato regretted all of the decisions he’d made in the past half an hour: allowing himself to be bribed with a meal, following Tsumugi to the living area, even opening his door for her. Everything was a mistake, Yamato sighed inwardly. “I’m not cut out to be an instructor, you know... It’s not like I properly studied this or anything, so.”

Tsumugi didn’t buy into his excuse, not one bit. “Even so, there must be something you can do!”

With a resigned sigh, knowing that it was best not to argue with Tsumugi, Yamato asked, “What’s the script about?”

Face lighting up happily, she replied, “It’s a trendy love drama. The heroine is a single woman working as an editor. She will be played by Takeshita Eiko-san, who is a very skilled actress.” Then she turned to look at Sougo. “Sougo-san will be playing a beautician who is childhood friends with the heroine.”

“A beautician...”

She turned to Tamaki next. “Tamaki-san will be playing a college student,” she told them, and Tamaki gave her an odd look. “The heroine finds this aspiring boxer on the streets one night and takes him in.”

“They should’ve given the college student part to Souchan,” Tamaki commented. “At least he’s been to college before, even though he dropped out when he ran away from home.”

“That’s rude, Tamaki-kun.”

“Sorry. Also, you can take in boxers from the street...?” the alpha asked incredulously. “At night...?”

Yamato ignored Tamaki’s questions, instead asking, “So who does she pick?”

Frowning, Tsumugi said, “It hasn’t been written yet.”

“I bet Sou’s the one that’ll get rejected,” he snickered.

Sougo nodded solemnly in agreement. It made much more sense if his character was the one who’d be rejected by the heroine. Tamaki was way too handsome to not be the final choice, though Sougo supposed his opinion could be a little biased. He had no confidence at all that his character would win over Tamaki’s. “I agree...”

“There are times when the childhood friend wins, though!” Tsumugi cut in, making sure to send Sougo an encouraging smile. The omega returned it sheepishly, unsure of how exactly he was supposed to respond. He didn’t particularly mind playing the role of the rejected childhood friend, he really didn’t, so he didn’t feel bothered at all. “I always root for the childhood friend, even in shoujo manga.”

“Thank you for the encouragement, Manager,” Sougo said, “but it’s fine. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Let’s start working on this tomorrow,” Yamato suggested. Tsumugi raised a brow at him, and he responded with a cheeky grin. It wasn’t that late yet, but Yamato was too lazy to come up with something off the top of his head right now. He also didn’t want to disturb the other members. He knew the few of them needed the rest. “I’ll see you guys at the practice room at eight.”

Sougo looked at Yamato, then at Tsumugi. “I-is that alright, Manager?”

With a sigh, Tsumugi nodded. “It is getting late. I was just too excited to share the news. Then, let’s meet at the practice room in the morning! Shall I come by to drive you guys over?”

“That’d be nice,” Tamaki said, making a face when Sougo frowned at him. “What?”

“I don’t mind!” Tsumugi assured. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Please have a good rest!”

“You too. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“She already said it’s fine,” Yamato chuckled, getting up from his seat at the same time as Tsumugi. “I’ll walk you to the door. You two should go back to your rooms and turn in early tonight.”

“Goodnight, Manager,” Tamaki called out as the betas left the room, nudging Sougo after they were out of sight. “You heard what Yamasan said. I already lost my game, so let’s go and sleep.”

“Alright. With any luck, I might not even have to wake you up tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Not a chance.”

 

---

 

Sougo stared at his boyfriend, wondering how exactly Tamaki was still asleep.

They'd ended up falling asleep sometime before twelve last night, and Tamaki had even been the one who’d fallen asleep first. Sougo had spent some time looking through paperwork for upcoming schedules, and then looking at the piece that he’d been composing since late last year. The omega had climbed into bed about forty minutes after Tamaki had first dozed off, snuggling up to the alpha and making himself comfortable before allowing himself to drift off to sleep.

He'd also woken up nearly an hour ago, slowly going about his morning before it was time for him to wake Tamaki up. He'd taken a shower, met Mitsuki in the kitchen and helped to set the table for breakfast, eaten said breakfast, and finally returned to his room.

Some part of him had hoped that perhaps Tamaki would have woken up on his own – Sougo had left two alarms on in an attempt to get Tamaki to wake up, but evidently, that hadn’t worked. It wasn’t that Sougo really minded having to wake Tamaki up, but he did think that it was necessary for Tamaki to be less reliant on him. And everyone else, for that matter.

Glancing at the clock and sighing softly, Sougo reached out to shake Tamaki awake. “Tamaki-kun, it’s morning already,” he called out, receiving only a disgruntled groan in response. He shook the alpha again, and this time Tamaki turned away from Sougo, pulling the blanket with him as he did so. “It’s time to wake up, Tamaki-kun. We're going to be late.”

“Don’t wanna...”

“Do you want to make Manager wait for us just to drive us to the office?”

“Mhmm...”

Huffing in frustration, Sougo pulled the blanket off Tamaki. “I’m telling you, wake up!”

Without the warmth of the blanket cocooning him, Tamaki’s eyes snapped open. “The hell?”

“Don’t curse at me,” Sougo snapped, unceremoniously dropping the blanket back onto Tamaki. He didn’t like to play the role of the bad guy, but sometimes Tamaki’s lack of discipline was ridiculous. Sougo didn’t want to be the type of omega who went along with his alpha’s whims despite knowing that it wasn’t right. “Get up, brush your teeth, and eat your breakfast. You have twenty minutes.”

“You’re starting to sound like Yuuchan,” Tamaki grumbled, voice still groggy with sleep. “So naggy.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sougo said. He was sure that Tamaki had meant that as an insult, but Sougo didn’t take any offense at all. Surely Sawamura Yuuko had had an even tougher time trying to discipline Tamaki when he’d been young. “I wouldn’t have to do this if you can wake up on your own, you know.”

Tamaki made a face, forcing himself to sit up and squinting at the sunlight streaming in through the windows. “It’s too early to be awake.”

“It really isn’t,” Sougo sighed, leaning down to plant a quick peck on Tamaki’s cheek. “Come on. You have to go and get ready before Manager gets here. If you don’t hurry, you won’t have time to eat. You wouldn’t want to miss out on Mitsuki-san's pancakes, would you?”

“Don’t care...” the alpha mumbled, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He threw his legs over the bed and finally got up, and Sougo led him out of his room by hand. The omega stood by the door of the bathroom as Tamaki washed up, and then the couple headed to the dining area so that Tamaki could have his breakfast.

Iori was the only one seated at the table when they got there, a half-eaten piece of pancake already on his plate. When they entered the common area, Iori had been staring listlessly at his plate, only looking up at the sound of the door opening and managing a pathetic excuse of a smile at the two. “Good morning, Ousaka-san, Yotsuba-san.”

“Good morning, Iori-kun,” Sougo greeted in return, going to the kitchen to grab some food for Tamaki.

“Morning Iorin,” Tamaki said, sitting down opposite Iori and resting his head on the table. He studied Iori’s face for a few long seconds, noting the bags under the omega’s eyes and the listless expression he wore. “You look like shit.”

Sougo clicked his tongue disapprovingly, setting the plate of pancakes down on the table. “That’s not a nice thing to say, Tamaki-kun!” he scolded, taking a seat beside his boyfriend and handing a set of cutleries to him. “Eat quickly. Manager should be getting here in ten minutes.”

Then, turning to Iori, Sougo said, “Don’t mind him, Iori-kun. You know how blunt he can be.”

“He’s not wrong,” Iori shrugged. He'd seen himself in the mirror that morning, and he knew that Tamaki wasn’t exactly wrong to say that he looked like shit. He felt like it, too, considering he’d spent a good portion of the previous night brooding over how Riku had escaped from his room after hearing what Iori’d had to say.

Riku had said that he would try his best not to let Iori down again, something that honestly bothered Iori a lot. He couldn’t help wondering if he’d said or done anything that made the alpha feel that way. He knew that he could be very direct when it came to giving feedback, and maybe that’d given Riku the impression that he’d been disappointed in him.

That was, of course, the complete opposite of the truth, but Riku wouldn’t believe him even if he told him that anyway. Iori just hoped that this wasn’t contributing to Riku’s inner turmoil.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Sougo offered. “Maybe after we get back?”

“It’s fine,” Iori assured, though it really wasn’t. There wasn’t much that Sougo, or anyone else for that matter, could do to assuage his insecurity. Iori had tried, but ultimately, it was something that Riku had to deal with himself.

Maybe if Kujo-san talked to him...Iori cut that train of thought before it could go any further. He didn’t have any doubt that Tenn had indirectly contributed to the situation that Riku was currently in. It wasn’t as if Riku had explicitly told him what was said between them that night, but Iori didn’t need him to. The alpha had said, loud and clear, that Tenn had told him stop being an idol.

Iori didn’t want to have to admit it, but Tenn was probably the only one who could undo the damage that his words had caused. They would be seeing TRIGGER in three days for their first joint practice, so Iori could only hope that Tenn would say something to boost Riku’s confidence in himself. If he couldn’t do that, then Iori wanted him to at least not say anything to worsen the situation.

Sougo looked at Iori unsurely, but nodded. “Okay. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

“I’ll be sure to do that,” Iori replied gratefully. He looked at the remnants of his breakfast, not wanting to waste food yet not having the appetite to finish it, and stood up. “I’ll go and get ready for my morning schedule. Have a good day at work today.”

“You too.”

Sougo watched Iori leave the room, not knowing how else he could help the younger. It was only after he was certain that Iori was out of earshot that he turned to Tamaki. “Iori-kun seems to be having a rough time. Is there anything we can do for him and Riku-kun?”

Tamaki looked up from his pancakes to give Sougo a confused stare. “You heard Iorin. He said that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Isn't it better to leave him alone? Iorin’s smart enough to figure something out on his own, so if he doesn’t have a solution for his problem, then I don’t think we can help,” Tamaki reasoned. “I’d go to Mikki, but...”

“Mitsuki-san has also been in low spirits lately,” Sougo finished Tamaki’s sentence, and the alpha nodded. “I guess we can only hope that things work out for them. It won’t be nice if we’re all down during our joint practice with TRIGGER. And Iori-kun's heat is in two weeks.”

“You know, Souchan,” Tamaki said, stuffing the last of his pancake into his mouth, “I think it’s good that you’re worried about Iorin, but he’s a prideful guy. He doesn’t like to rely on other people. Sometimes it’s like he’s trying to carry all of us on his back. I think he’s going to break eventually.”

“That’s surprisingly insightful of you, Tamaki-kun,” Sougo commented, unable to help being surprised by what Tamaki had said. It was true, every single word of it, and honestly Sougo hadn’t thought that Tamaki of all people would have pointed it out. “Well, there’s not much we can do about it now, huh. We should get ready to leave.”

Tamaki went to put his plate in the sink, and Sougo headed to his room to grab their phones and his wallet. They were only going to go to the practice room and get some acting advice from Yamato, then they’d have a few hours before their schedule in the evening.

He met Tamaki by the entryway, and when they went out of the dorm, Tsumugi was already in the car waiting for them. She'd picked Yamato up on her way over; the leader had been at an early filming for a CM. “Good morning,” Sougo greeted.

“Not a good morning,” Yamato yawned, waving lazily from where he was riding shotgun. “Let’s make this quick. With any luck, I’ll be able to catch thirty minutes of sleep before I go for my next schedule.”

“We’ll try not to take too long,” Sougo said, smiling up at his alpha when Tamaki opened the door for him. It was a surprisingly gentlemanly gesture coming from the younger, and one that Sougo didn’t mind getting used to. “Thanks, Tamaki-kun.”

“No problem,” Tamaki replied nonchalantly, getting in after Sougo and shutting the door.

 

---

 

“Tamaki-san, do you have any experience acting?”

Tamaki hummed, brows furrowed in thought, before his face lit up slightly. “In our elementary school play, I was the pheasant in Momotarou,” the alpha announced proudly.

Yamato managed to look impressed and bored, all at the same time. “Give us a line.”

Screeee! If you give me one of your millet dumplings, then I shall be your attendant!”

Sougo startled at the sudden screeching noise that he hadn’t realised Tamaki was capable of producing, and Tamaki turned to look at him with an amused twinkle in his eyes. Sougo felt his cheeks burn in embarrassment, and Tamaki simply continued to look at him with a small grin. “Heh.”

Yamato was much less amused by what he perceived to be flirting. It probably wasn’t, and Yamato knew that, but it did get annoying to watch them interact sometimes. He was just bitter that he was alone, and he knew that, too. “Moving on.”

Tsumugi gave Yamato a sympathetic look. “What about you, Sougo-san?”

“Similarly, I’ve only appeared in a high school play,” Sougo replied.

“What kind of play was it?”

The omega opened his mouth to reply, and then closed it again on second thought. He wasn’t particularly ashamed of the role he’d acted in that play, but he also didn’t quite want Tamaki to know that he’d once, and only once, acted as a courtesan. He'd only been selected for the role because of his feminine looks – back then, he’d already been taking heat suppressants. Everybody had been under the impression that he was a beta.

Of course, the fact that he’d still been chosen to play the role despite everyone thinking that he was a beta only served to show just how feminine he’d been. At least, compared to the rest of his class. He'd been asked one too many times if he wasn’t actually an omega.

With an apologetic smile and hoping that Yamato would drop the matter, Sougo said, “I went to an all boys’ high school. Please don’t inquire any further.”

And, of course, Yamato didn’t. He raised a curious brow, now evidently more interested in Sougo’s answer than before. Tamaki simply looked between them in confusion, not understanding the hidden implications of Sougo’s reply. “Were you Juliet?” the beta teased.

“...I was Takao-dayuu.”

Yamato smiled innocently. “Give us a line.”

Sougo sighed. “Wouldst thou fancy a smoke, my Lord?”

“Wow, Souchan really sounds like he’s from the Edo period.”

“Nice,” Yamato commented, standing up and looking at the duo. “Alright, just go with that feeling and do your best, Mr. Pheasant and Takao-dayuu. Good work.”

Tsumugi’s eyes widened as the beta turned to leave, and she exclaimed, “Please wait, Yamato-san! I beg of you, please coach them!”

“Like I said, I don’t have anything to teach,” Yamato said. He’d thought it over last night after Tsumugi had left, and he honestly hadn’t been able to think of what kind of advice he was supposed to give.

Sure, he had more acting experience than them, but he was still fairly new to acting as well. It didn’t matter that he was related to a certain famous actor in Japan, or that often received positive appraisal from fans and fellow actors alike. Yamato knew that he wasn’t cut out to teach people. “I’m still an amateur too. Just get the director to do it.”

“Could you at least give these two advice? For their sakes? Anything is fine!”

Pursing his lips, Yamato scratched his head in thought. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help them, though it would be nice if they didn’t rely on him for advice. He simply didn’t know how he was supposed to guide two people who had almost no experience in acting; it’d always come rather naturally to Yamato.

“Imagine the feeling inside your head, and then act it out,” Yamato said, earning himself deadpan stares from both Sougo and Tamaki. “Or you can base it off of things you’ve felt before and just put it into your acting. Either works.”

Tamaki’s expression only grew more puzzled. “What...?”

“I don’t understand at all...”

Yamato resisted the urge to sigh. He couldn’t blame them for not understanding what he was getting at, because even he didn’t think he was doing a good job of explaining. He didn’t have the habit of thinking about how he was supposed to act. He’d just go with whatever he felt was right, and it usually turned out in a good take. “How about putting it into practice?” the beta suggested. “Try imitating each other – pretend it’s a role and act it out.”

“Imitate Tamaki-kun?” Sougo asked, as if Yamato’s instructions had been difficult to understand. He looked over at his boyfriend, raising a brow when it seemed that Tamaki was already ready to do as Yamato had said.

As expected, Tamaki nodded and said, “Sure. I can do it. Tamaki-kun, you have to make sure that you’re 5 minutes early to everything! I love being 5 minutes early to everything.”

Sougo’s jaw dropped, and he wore a look of disbelief as Tamaki turned over to gauge his reaction. When he saw the look on Sougo’s face, the smile he’d been wearing fell off his face. Sougo looked both offended and horrified, though the omega was quick to school his expression back into a neutral one. It wasn’t quite quick enough to hide from Tamaki, though. “Huh? Was I off?”

“...no...”

Yamato chortled, uncaring of the fact that he was potentially stirring up a fight between the couple. The most hilarious thing about Tamaki’s imitation wasn’t that it was probably true – it was how Sougo reacted to it. Yamato didn’t get to see Sougo look quite so flustered very often, so he was honestly rather amused. “Try it out, Sou.”

Sougo frowned in thought, wondering how best to portray his boyfriend. “I’m not quite sure, but... No, no, no, no! Something like that?” he tried. It was Tamaki’s turn to wear a grimace, and when the omega noticed the look on Tamaki’s face and the displeasure in his scent, he asked hesitantly, “D-did I do it wrong? Sorry...?”

“...nah...” Tamaki dismissed reluctantly, “It’s fine, but...”

He trailed off, and the two of them stared blankly at each other.

Tamaki was the first to break the silence, exclaiming indignantly, “I’m not like that at all! What am I, a kid throwing a tantrum?!”

I love being 5 minutes early!? What’s with that!” Sougo retorted, feeling just as wronged as Tamaki was. “It’s just common sense, and has nothing to do with personal preference! It’s rude if you’re late!”

Yamato looked between the duo, laughing heartily to get their attention before announcing, “Okay! You two are good to go! See ya.”

“Y-Yamato-san? Wait!” Tsumugi called out, looking at Tamaki and Sougo apologetically. “I have to accompany Yamato-san to his next schedule, so I’ll get going. Please work hard for the upcoming drama! Then, excuse me!”

They watched Tsumugi chase after Yamato, and then they turned to look at each other. Both wore equally sour expressions, neither willing to apologise for their portrayal of the other. “This was a stupid idea,” Tamaki huffed, grabbing his phone off the table. “I’m going to get drinks from the machine. Loan me some money, Souchan.”

“Shouldn’t we try to practice a little more, first?”

“And get even more pissed off at each other?” Tamaki asked incredulously.

Sougo grimaced; he couldn’t deny that the alpha had a point. He'd said all that about getting mad in Tamaki’s stead, but that was easier said than done. So, with a defeated sigh, Sougo passed his entire wallet to Tamaki. “Buy anything you want,” he explained, when Tamaki gave him a confused look. “I’ll stay here and get mad at myself for you.”

Tamaki looked no less confused, but nodded and took the wallet. “I’ll get a drink for you too. And I’ll try to calm down while I’m out so that I’m not angry at you by the time I get back.”

“That’d be nice,” Sougo managed a smile, and Tamaki went out of the practice room. He waited until he was sure that Tamaki was gone before heaving a soft sigh. He could handle Tamaki getting this angry; if anything, he seemed more annoyed than actually angry.

Sougo was rather certain that Tamaki wouldn’t be this level-headed when he found out that he’d met Aya, though. The keychain that she’d dropped was still inside his bag. Just thinking about how furious Tamaki would be made Sougo sigh again. “I wonder if I’ll see her again soon...”

Chapter Text

Aya frowned, rummaging through her bag in slight panic. “It’s not here...” she mumbled to herself. “I wonder where it is... Maybe I dropped it.” She ran through the possible places where she could’ve lost her keychain, eyes widening when she recalled her encounter with Sougo. “Could it be... that time...”

“What’re you doing?”

Looking up in surprise, so absorbed in searching for her keychain that she hadn’t noticed Tenn coming up behind her, Aya said, “Tenn-san- ah, Tenn-oniichan... I lost something important...”

Tenn pursed his lips – he still didn’t know Aya very well, considering they’d met only four months ago, but she was usually a rather calm girl. She didn’t express her emotions very often, instead wearing an obedient mask like Tenn did. For her to be so panicked, to the point that it showed in her scent, meant that whatever she’d lost had probably been given to her by her mother or brother.

He hadn’t personally experienced losing an important item before, but he could imagine that she was rather worried. And Kujo had told him to look after her as if they were actual siblings. “How about we look for it together?” he suggested.

With a small, shaky smile, Aya shook her head. “It’s okay. I just remembered where it could be, so I’ll go search there.”

“Kujo-san will scold you if you go out too often,” Tenn reminded.

“Yes,” Aya replied. Then, as an afterthought, added, “Tenn-oniichan.”

Sighing, because Aya sounded reluctant to address him like that, Tenn said, “You don’t have to force yourself to call me ‘oniichan’. I met you just last year, after all. Just ‘Tenn’ is fine.”

Aya nodded in understanding, seeming relieved by his words. They stood there in silence for a few moments, Aya fidgeting uncomfortably and thinking of how to dispel the awkwardness. “Tenn-san, what was your reason for letting Kujo-san adopt you?”

Tenn replied her question with another question. “What was yours?”

“...Kujo-san shouldered my foster father’s debt and took me in,” she told him. “If it weren’t for him, my family and I would’ve been left out in the cold, wandering the streets. I can’t thank him enough.”

“I see...” Tenn trailed off, offering Aya a smile. He didn’t get to be alone with Aya very often, and it’d never seemed like a good idea to ask questions like these when Kujo was around. “I experienced something similar.”

Aya tilted her head curiously. “Were you also poor back then, Tenn-san?” she asked, not having expected that they’d have gone through the same things in the past. Tenn held himself with an air befitting of the centre of TRIGGER, as well as an alpha. Aya had never once thought that Tenn had been poor. “I couldn’t tell at all. I'm pretty used to being poor, though.”

“You’ve gone through so much,” Tenn commented sympathetically.

“It’s nothing! What about you, Tenn-san?”

“My parents owned a shop,” he explained. “It was fine for a few years, but they fell into debt... It was to the point where even if they’d let go of the shop, they’d still be in the red. My younger twin brother is sickly, and there’s no way they would’ve been able to bring him for treatment if they were in debt. Kujo-san said that he’d shoulder their debt in exchange for taking me in, and so, I became his adopted child when I was 13.”

“So that’s how it is...”

Tenn shrugged. “I rebelled against him at first, but now I respect him.”

“Kujo-san is always praising you, Tenn-san,” Aya said. “He always says, ‘That boy is perfect’.”

Chuckling slightly, Tenn asked, “What did you think when you met the real thing?”

“It’s just as I heard,” she said simply, her smile now brighter than before. “You’re just like a beautiful doll.”

“I’ll be your prince from now on, Aya,” he told her. “I’ve never had a younger sister before.”

“You’re my second older brother!” she giggled, and Tenn couldn’t help but laugh.

“Indeed. What a strange family we are.”

The doorbell rang abruptly, and the two of them glanced towards the door. “Looks like my manager’s here,” Tenn said, catching a glimpse of Anesagi’s car in the driveway. He picked his bag up from the couch, ruffling Aya’s hair slightly. “I have to go.”

She nodded, walking with him to the door. “What’re you doing at work today?”

“I’ll be practicing with my younger brother from back then.”

“Is your ankle alright?”

“It’s fine,” he assured, though he was wearing an ankle support just in case. It'd only been five days since the sprain, and Tenn didn’t want to risk worsening his injury. He'd already been performing in spite of it, although he’d been trying not to put too much pressure on it.

Gaku had also been making sure to remind Tenn to ice it every few hours, at least for the two days following the sprain. After a schedule, he’d ask Tenn to show his ankle to him, as if he was even qualified to assess whether or not it was recovering well. Tenn did as told anyway, always having to stamp down his feelings for the leader in those situations.

Aya waved to Tenn as he got into Anesagi’s car. “Good luck at work!”

 

---

 

Iori knocked on Riku’s door, aware that his boyfriend had been hiding for the past half hour. “It’s time to head to the office, Nanase-san,” he called out.

Things had been awkward between them for the past few days, no thanks to what Riku had said to Iori the last time they’d talked to each other properly. Iori was honestly sick of it. Every time they seemed to be making any progress, something would happen that would undo that progress, bring them back to square one.

He wouldn’t pin all the blame on Riku, though, because he acknowledged that he was also contributing to the miscommunication that’d been going on recently. He just didn’t want to risk being too honest with how he felt and make Riku feel as if he couldn’t tell Iori the truth about his feelings. It was just that Riku was really taking too long to get over himself.

“Wait,” Riku called out, and Iori sighed, leaning against the wall while waiting for the alpha to get his stuff. It was about a minute before Riku’s door opened, and Riku came out with his bag. “Hi, Iori,” he greeted, a lacklustre smile on his face.

“Hello to you too, Nanase-san,” Iori greeted. “I have some sandwiches in my bag. We can eat it while waiting for TRIGGER to get there, alright? I made some hot tea as well.”

“Thanks,” Riku said, genuinely grateful for Iori’s thoughtfulness. “Sorry I didn’t come out to eat breakfast with everyone. I didn’t realise I was so stressed over this whole shuffle unit collaboration.”

“To the extent that you had an attack,” Iori sighed. He’d slept with Riku the previous night because he’d noticed that the alpha had been brooding about the joint practice with TRIGGER. He couldn’t deny that it had still been awkward to do so, but Iori had prioritised Riku’s wellbeing over his emotions. He was fine as long as he didn’t harp on the fact that Riku was hiding how he felt from him. “Are you feeling better now?”

Riku nodded. “Yup. I brought my inhaler, just in case. Is it okay if I scent you later, before Tenn-nii reaches the practice room?” he asked hesitantly, as if he was afraid that Iori would say no.

The omega stared at his boyfriend. “Is it to calm you down, or...?”

“That,” Riku agreed, averting his gaze from Iori’s, “and because we don’t usually work this closely with other alphas. Tenn-nii's scent is similar to mine, you know. Maybe I’m just being overprotective, but I’d feel better if I could mask your scent with mine.”

“Even if I’m wearing scent neutralisers.”

“Even then, yes.”

“I don’t see why not,” Iori conceded with an exasperated smile. He couldn’t really fault Riku for being protective of him. In fact, Iori welcomed it. He still remembered the fact that he hadn’t been wearing scent neutralisers the night Tenn had been in their dorm, and that he’d been wearing one of Riku’s jackets.

He wasn’t sure if Tenn had caught onto his scent, but the jacket had most certainly carried Riku’s scent on it. He had no idea how Tenn had interpreted that, and he didn’t really want to know. The last thing he needed now was for his and Riku’s relationship to be found out. “Come on, the others are already waiting in the van for us.”

The couple made their way out of the dorm, getting into the van and heading to the office.

They split into three different practice rooms once they were at the office, and Iori passed the neatly wrapped sandwiches to Riku to eat. Instead of starting on his breakfast, though, Riku put the sandwiches down and held his arms out.

Iori raised a brow, but went to Riku anyway, allowing the alpha to wrap his arms around him and nuzzle at his scent glands. Iori wasn’t wearing a scent neutralising patch this time, instead opting to use the spray instead, so Riku was able to immediately begin scenting the omega. “Don’t take too long, Nanase-san,” Iori murmured, eyes closed as he let himself relax.

“Mmm, I won’t,” Riku promised, understanding that TRIGGER could end up arriving early.

Iori dropped his head on Riku’s shoulder, breathing in the scent that was now all-too-familiar and humming softly as Riku scented him. There was still unease in the alpha’s scent, though it was slowly fading away as the seconds ticked by. He released some calming pheromones to help, and Riku’s lips curved into a small smile.

He was done in two minutes, pulling back with a satisfied smile, to which Iori returned with a smile of his own. “Now eat,” Iori instructed, earning a salute from Riku. He sat beside Riku after dousing the room in scent neutralising spray. The alpha finally started on his food, and Iori rested his chin on his hand as he watched Riku eat.

Tenn came into the room when Riku was halfway through his second sandwich, sending the duo an unimpressed stare and clearing his throat to get their attention. He noted the utter lack of scent in the room and wrinkled his nose slightly. Tenn wasn’t used to being in a room that smelt so much like nothing. He understood that they were probably trying their best to hide Iori’s being an omega, but this seemed like overkill to him. “Good morning.”

Riku looked up, mouth half-full of food and eyes wide. He hastily swallowed whatever was in his mouth, and Iori grimaced, hoping that Riku didn’t end up choking. “Tenn-nii,” Riku said, wondering why Tenn was already here. He hadn’t been due to arrive until ten minutes later. “Good morning...”

Iori saw how Tenn was eyeing the half-eaten sandwich in Riku’s hand. “Good morning...”

“Too sullen,” Tenn snapped. “Redo it.”

“Huh?”

“Did you not hear me?”

Riku and Iori looked at each other, and then back at Tenn. “G-good morning!”

“Better, but still lacking,” Tenn said, setting his bag down by the side and closing the door behind him. He nodded towards Riku’s sandwich, raising a brow questioningly. “A little late for breakfast, don’t you think? Shouldn't you have eaten before coming here? How unprofessional.”

Riku’s brows knit together, unable to come up with a reply, and Iori sighed. “He would’ve finished by the time you were supposed to come, which happens to be in ten minutes,” he pointed out.

Tenn nodded. “And now I’m wrong for being early?”

“Not at all,” Iori replied easily. “Being early is great. But you shouldn’t fault someone for not being ready if you’re here before the stipulated time. Nanase-san thought he would have at least five more minutes before you arrive, and he would’ve finished eating in that time. It's not wrong to be not early, either.”

“Fair enough,” Tenn allowed, arms crossed as he leaned against the wall. “Hurry, then. I'll wait.”

“Okay...” Riku mumbled, taking bigger bites of his sandwich in order to finish it more quickly.

Iori looked at Riku worriedly, trying his best not to shoot a glare at Tenn. Today’s going to be a really long day...

 

---

 

Yamato’s gaze swept across the occupants in the room, namely Nagi and Mitsuki, and sighed. “So I’m in a unit with a scary old Yaotome, plus Mitsu and Nagi who are down in the dumps, huh?” he mused. He had no idea what he’d done to deserve being put in such a position. “Alright then. Today, I am here to be a cushion. I must forget that I was ever a human being...”

“What are you muttering to yourself?”

“Uwah!” Yamato yelped, not having expected to hear Gaku’s voice right beside his ear. He hadn’t even realised that TRIGGER’s leader had come into the room, as absorbed in his thoughts as he’d been.

Gaku paid Yamato’s exclamation no heed, instead walking further into the room and stopping in front of Mitsuki. The beta looked up at Gaku from his position on the floor, plastering the brightest smile he was able to muster onto his face. Before he could even get a greeting out, though, Gaku said, “Hey, Izumi-ani. You've been pretty under the weather lately. What happened?”

Mitsuki winced at how direct Gaku’s question was, though it was true. “I...”

“You’ve been really silent lately and have been letting others drag you around instead of leading the conversation,” Gaku continued, unaware that he was bruising Mitsuki’s already damaged ego. Mitsuki couldn’t expect him to know that, though, considering he hadn’t even told Nagi what’d happened during his rare time off.

Nagi did at least know that Mitsuki had been going through a really tough time recently, and that Gaku wasn’t really helping at all. He got up, moving so that he was standing between Mitsuki and Gaku. “OH... Yaotome-shi, please don’t get too close to our Mitsuki,” he said, wearing his usual pleasant smile. He kept his scent neutral, not wanting to alert Gaku that he was simply being possessive. “He’s been pretty down, as you’ve said yourself, and doesn’t appreciate others invading his personal space.”

Gaku sent the blond alpha an incredulous look. “You’re standing closer to him than I am, though?”

“Drop it, Nagi,” Mitsuki sighed, raising his brow knowingly at Nagi when the latter turned back to look at him. Nagi pouted, almost indignantly, and Mitsuki pursed his lips.

He understood that Nagi was just concerned, and honestly he wanted to be able to confide in his boyfriend, but Mitsuki also didn’t want to feel like a burden. He also didn’t like to appear weak, least of all to Nagi. It seemed nonsensical to be upset for so long about something that two, just two, fans had said. “I don’t really mind, Yaotome. Don’t take this guy seriously; he gets way too affected when any of us are down.”

Yamato snorted, and Mitsuki shot the leader a glare. With an awkward cough, Yamato nodded. He wanted to call bullshit, though Mitsuki wasn’t completely wrong. Nagi was easily affected by the mood of others, but he didn’t get this jealous and protective unless Mitsuki was involved. “That is absolutely correct,” he agreed, earning himself a strange look from Gaku as well.

“Well, whatever,” TRIGGER’s leader sighed. He had enough problems of his own to worry about, and he didn’t need to also be worrying about the condition of their rival group. He still couldn’t stop thinking about whether Tenn was doing alright with Riku and Iori, and whether his ankle was still hurting. “Let’s get hyped up for Re:vale, since they’re headed towards their fifth anniversary!”

 

---

 

“Stop, stop!” Tenn shouted in frustration, crossing his arms and turning to look at Riku and Iori. The two of them flinched at his sudden exclamation, stopping mid-dance to look at him. “Stop the music.”

Iori was confused, and slightly annoyed, but he did as told. Riku was still trying to catch his breath, and the omega didn’t want to make him exert more energy than was necessary. It probably wasn’t very easy for Riku to be having a joint practice like this with Tenn.

“Hah... Tenn-nii, what’s wrong?”

“Both of you are moving too awkwardly,” Tenn said bluntly, noting how both of them seemed to shrink into themselves. He knew that he’d hit a nerve, but that was the least of his concerns. His ankle was already starting to throb slightly in pain again, no doubt from running through the dance for twenty minutes straight. “You’re both trying to sync up, but aren’t at all. Don't mind what’s around you and get the rhythm down yourself first.”

Riku exhaled heavily and nodded. “I understand.”

“No, you don’t,” Tenn retorted, and Riku bit on his lip as if ashamed of himself. If not for the ridiculous amount of scent neutralisers that they’d used in the room, Tenn was rather sure that he would be able to smell Riku’s emotions in his scent. He felt, rather than saw, Iori frown at him, and Tenn sighed inwardly. How obvious. “You should stand in the back if something like a centre change is enough to make your heart waver.”

Iori opened his mouth to speak, to tell Tenn not to talk like that when he couldn’t possibly understand how Riku felt, but the conflicted look on Riku’s face was enough to shut him up. He'd seen Riku look pained and vulnerable before, but never to this extent. So this is what he looks like in front of Kujo-san...

Tenn wasn’t too affected, having seen this look on Riku’s face one too many times. Riku used to always look like this whenever he was told off by Tenn, more often than not because of his health condition. It had been many years since Tenn had left the Nanase household, but the effect his words had on Riku hadn’t seemed to change a single bit.

Even the frown he wore now was the same as in the past, when he’d try to reason with Tenn that he was alright, that he could run around and play. Tenn had always been able to see through him effortlessly, though. “If that’s all the resolve you have, then you have no right to stand in the centre, underneath the spotlights.”

Riku’s brows furrowed even further. “...I’m not bothered at all. Not a bit.”

“I’m not bothered by it either,” Iori said, and the two alphas turned to look at him. He managed a tight smile, though he knew that even Tenn could see how forced it was. He didn’t know why he was even talking about this in Tenn’s presence; it was embarrassing, and he felt like he was exposing too much of himself to someone he barely even knew. “You... you just wanted to put some distance between us, that’s all...”

Riku's eyes widened at the pain reflected in both Iori’s voice and scent. “That’s not it!” the redhead was quick to assure, though Iori shot him an accusatory look. Riku winced; he’d pretty much been asking for that. Iori wasn’t wrong at all. “I...” Riku trailed off, shaking his head and faking a smile. “It’s nothing. Sorry... Even though I should be grateful towards you, Iori...”

Tenn sighed dramatically. He'd only been in the couple’s presence for less than an hour, and already he felt like they were being unnecessarily long-winded. “Just say it,” he snapped.

“Tenn-nii...”

“You too. Just tell him.”

“Kujo-san...”

“You have to face both the good feelings and the bad feelings head on,” he said, wondering when on earth he’d signed up to be a relationship counsellor. He'd figured that his words to Riku the other night had been weighing on his brother’s mind, and of course, he’d been right. The least he could do was attempt to do something to fix it. “Don’t be so afraid of yourself.

“Even the people at the top have to deal with bad feelings which they don’t want to face,” Tenn continued, his mind wandering to Gaku’s confession and the never-ending inner turmoil he’d been going through since then. “The stronger the light, the darker the shadows. Will you avert your eyes and run away? Or face them, and overcome it all? Which path will you choose, IDOLiSH7?”

Riku felt tears stinging his eyes. “I... I just don’t know what to do...” he mumbled, sniffling slightly and hating the fact that he was on the verge of crying. “I have to be grateful to Iori - that’s what I thought. I still think that, but... everyone’s saying that Iori’s better, and I keep hearing that our sales with Iori as centre are better... And so, it feels more and more like I’m denying my own feelings...”

Iori didn’t reply for a few long seconds, and Riku noticed his scent become impossibly pained, as well as incredibly frustrated. He didn’t know what to expect when he looked towards his omega, but he certainly hadn’t expected to see tears welling up in Iori’s eyes as well. “...are you stupid, or what?”

“S-stupid!?”

“You have the most vocal power in IDOLiSH7,” Iori continued, struggling to keep his voice steady through the lump in his throat. It was humiliating to cry in front of Kujo Tenn, but Riku was finally telling him the truth about how he’d been feeling, and it was downright nonsensical. “Your vocals are strong enough to beat that of TRIGGER’s Kujo Tenn.”

Tenn curled his lips distastefully. “I didn’t lose, though.”

Iori paid Tenn’s comment no heed. How Tenn felt was the last thing on his mind right now. “How do you think I feel, having to replace someone like you and sing as centre?” the omega demanded. “Do you understand at all?”

“...Iori...”

“I was afraid,” Iori admitted, his voice small. Naturally, he’d been afraid of the backlash he would get from fans, but even more than that, he’d been afraid of this exact thing happening. There was nothing that the fans could say that would affect Iori, hurt him, more than what Riku thought of him. “So, so afraid. Unbearably so. But even so... I’m standing here at the centre to help you... And yet, what’s with that attitude? How cruel of you!”

Iori's voice broke at the end, and when he blinked, the first of his tears streamed down his cheek. Riku’s heart clenched painfully in his chest; he’d seen Iori cry only once, the night after Music Festa. He'd never thought that he would see it happen again. He’d definitely never thought that he would be the cause of Iori’s tears. He reached out for the omega, and Iori flinched away. “Iori...”

“You’re cruel, Nanase-san...”

“I’m sorry...” Riku apologised, his heart breaking when Iori furiously wiped at his eyes. He didn’t care that Tenn was standing a mere metre away from them – Tenn most likely could already tell that there was something going on between them, anyway. His first priority, his instinct, was to comfort his upset omega. Anything else, he would worry about later. “I’m in the wrong... Forgive me, Iori...”

Iori didn’t reply, instead sniffling and choking back a sob.

“D-don’t cry...”

“I’m not crying at all!” the omega exclaimed defensively.

“I didn’t notice that you were feeling something similar to what I was... I mean, you can do everything and anything, and you have a great build. I envied you, Iori... All I felt... was jealousy. I couldn’t help but think that you’d be utterly appalled if you had found out this was how I felt...”

Iori looked at Riku through his tears. “...you fool,” he mumbled, not resisting when Riku moved to pull him into his arms this time. Riku shifted so that Iori’s face was pressed into his shoulder, his crying face hidden from Tenn’s view, and he kept his arms wrapped around Iori’s trembling frame.

“Sorry... I’m sorry...” he repeated, holding himself back from nuzzling against and kissing Iori. He shot Tenn a look, silently communicating to the other alpha to leave them alone for the time being. Iori was plenty upset already, and Riku didn’t need Tenn’s provocations to worsen the situation.

Tenn sighed. In any other situation, he’d continue making his point, but even he knew that it would be wiser to hold his tongue for now. Riku was clearly on the defensive, an alpha protecting his omega, and Tenn would be crazy to try anything funny.

He and Riku were twins, brothers who’d once shared a womb, but the bond between a fated pair trumped even that. It didn’t matter that Riku and Iori weren’t yet mates; their inner alpha and omega had long ago recognised the other as its partner.

So, instead, Tenn quietly left the room, silently hoping that they wouldn’t take too long to compose themselves. He neither wanted nor needed to walk in on them making out.

 

---

 

Riku waited until he heard the click of the door closing before pulling back, cupping Iori’s cheeks with both hands and forcing the omega to look at him.

Iori averted his gaze from Riku’s, knowing that he probably looked like a mess right now. Already he was dying from the embarrassment of breaking down, in front of Kujo Tenn of all people, and they still had to get back to practice later. He didn’t think he could handle Riku looking at him from such a close proximity. Surely Riku could see how red and swollen his eyes and face were.

Riku was emitting calming pheromones, at least, probably in an attempt to get Iori to stop crying. It was assuring, the fact that Riku was able to set aside his own emotions in favour of comforting him. Just a few minutes ago, Riku had been the one on the verge of tears. Right now, he wore only the determined expression of an alpha whose duty was to see to the wellbeing of his omega.

Instead of speaking, not wanting to risk saying the wrong thing, Riku wiped Iori’s tears away with his thumb, being as gentle as he was able to. When Iori’s eyelids fluttered shut, Riku leaned in to brush his lips over them. He continued to trail kisses down Iori’s cheek until he reached the omega’s lips, and when they kissed, Riku’s lips were salty with the remnants of Iori’s tears. “I’m sorry,” Riku apologised again, whispering the words against Iori’s lips. “I really am.”

“You didn’t... you didn’t think I did the centre change for me, did you?” Iori asked hesitantly.

“Never once did I think that,” Riku assured with a small smile. He'd always known that Iori had been doing all this for him. Still, he hadn’t been able to help but feel inadequate. “I was just insecure over nothing. You didn’t do anything wrong, and I should have confided in you earlier. Thank you, for being patient with me this whole time.”

“I’m not really happy that Kujo-san was the one who managed to get you to talk about it,” Iori huffed in displeasure, “but I’m glad you said anything at all. Can we promise each other not to keep stuff like this from each other in the future, though?”

Riku laughed defeatedly, nodding in reply. “It’s a tall order, but it’s probably for the best. Just, you need to remember that I have a stupid alpha complex,” Riku reminded, earning himself a harmless whack on the arm from Iori. “I can get upset over some pretty dumb things. Just a warning.”

“I don’t have a choice, do I? I can only accept you as you are,” Iori chuckled, letting Riku once more pull him into his embrace.

He rested his cheek against Riku’s shoulder, nuzzling his nose against the alpha’s scent glands. A contented sigh left his lips; it felt like a heavy weight had finally, finally, been lifted off his chest. All this time, Iori had been worrying whether or not Riku had thought badly of him, whether the alpha felt that he’d been using this opportunity to boost his own popularity. He couldn’t have cared less about whether or not he was popular. All that mattered was that IDOLiSH7 wasn’t losing fans because of the centre change, and they hadn’t.

Riku hummed in agreement, turning to press his lips against Iori’s temple. “We’re okay now, right?”

“More okay than we’ve been in a long time.”

“I love you,” Riku said abruptly.

Iori felt his cheeks warm, but he nodded and said, “Me too, Nanase-san. I love you too.”

“What do you say we get Tenn-nii back in here and finish up today’s practice?”

Iori couldn’t help but roll his eyes, an exasperated smile making its way onto his face. “Way to ruin the mood, Nanase-san,” he teased, playfully pinching Riku’s cheek when his boyfriend pouted. “Sure, why not. I don’t really want to be the one to explain our relationship, though.”

Riku simply continued to pout. “Aww, we aren’t in this together?”

Iori shrugged. “As long as we’re not on the front page of the entertainment news tomorrow, you can tell him whatever you want to,” he conceded. It was pretty obvious, in Iori’s opinion at least, that he and Riku were in some sort of relationship.

And, if he thought about it, Tenn would probably end up being his brother-in-law at some point in the future. The thought made a shudder run down Iori’s spine; he couldn’t imagine becoming relatives with Kujo Tenn, no matter how much Riku loved his brother.

“Alright, I’ll tell him,” Riku said, kissing Iori on the lips once more before heading out of the practice room to get Tenn. Iori watched him leave, heart feeling fuller than it had for the past several weeks. He only hoped that Tenn wouldn’t end up giving them a lecture. He couldn’t possibly understand what they’d gone through.

It isn’t as if he’d ever had to find a compromise between love and his career, after all.

Chapter Text

“I’m Tsunashi Ryuunosuke,” Ryuu greeted, a kind smile on his face as always. “I look forward to working with you guys today.” 

Sougo bowed in greeting. “I am Ousaka Sougo. I look forward to working with you, too.” 

“Yeah,” Tamaki said, waving lazily at Ryuu from where he was sitting. Sougo shot him a disapproving look, but Tamaki didn’t notice. “I look forward to it too, Ryuu-aniki.” 

“The two of you are really good at dancing, so I can’t wait to dance with you guys!” Ryuu told them, and Sougo flushed slightly at the praise. Tamaki noted the minute change in his boyfriend’s scent, and he wrinkled his nose in mild annoyance. He didn’t like when Sougo fawned over TRIGGER, even if he knew that Sougo was simply a big fan of theirs. All three of them were alphas, after all. “Now, shall we get started?” 

“Yes!” 

They started the music, having seen the demo choreography sent to them by the choreographer, and took their turns to run through their parts. Tamaki went first, followed by Sougo, and then the two of them stood by the side while Ryuu performed his part. 

Two run-throughs later, and Sougo’s jaw had all but dropped to the ground. “That’s amazing, Tsunashi-san! Your movements are so sharp, and yet you’re as flexible as rubber... The way you move just isn’t human!” the omega gushed, completely unaware of the scowl that was adorning his alpha’s face. 

Ryuu chuckled awkwardly, used to being praised but still not quite knowing how to react. “Thanks.” 

“And before I knew it, I was captivated!” Sougo continued, finally turning to Tamaki and excitedly asking him, “Right, Tamaki-kun?” 

“Hmph...” 

It was only then that he saw Tamaki’s expression, and only then did he realise that Tamaki’s scent had gone from somewhat annoyed, like he almost always was, to downright irritated. It wasn’t unusual for Tamaki to be annoyed at one thing or the other; even something as minor as Mitsuki buying the wrong brand of cereal could cause a minute change in Tamaki’s scent. The alpha had never been one to hide how he felt, even if he didn’t voice it outwardly. It'd been this way all morning, too, so Sougo hadn’t thought much of it. 

But while the mild annoyance in his scent had been only noticeable to Sougo, and perhaps others who were used to being around Tamaki and were familiar with his scent, it was now at a point where anyone would be able to tell that he was pissed off. Or, well, at least Sougo thought it was, but it wasn’t as if he knew what others perceived Tamaki’s scent as. 

That didn’t mean Sougo particularly understood  why  his alpha seemed so irritated  all of a sudden , though he suspected that it had something to do with the tinge of jealousy he was detecting. He  could  very well be imagining it, though. “Tamaki-kun?” 

Tamaki pursed his lips. “I can do at least that much.” 

“That’s true,” Ryuu agreed, not at all knowing what was with the sudden change in Tamaki’s scent. It wasn’t oppressive at all, but it  was  rather obvious that the younger was in a sour mood. “You definitely have what it takes, so if you practice-” 

“I can do it right here, right now!” Tamaki countered defiantly. 

Ryuu blinked at Tamaki’s outburst. “Are you flexible?” he asked, concerned. Tamaki had a lot of potential, but he was also young and inexperienced. “The area from your lower back to your shoulders is stiff, so be careful when you move there...” 

“You’re so noisy! I didn’t ask you to teach me, okay!?” 

“S-sorry...” 

“Tamaki-kun, that was rude,” Sougo scolded, now surer than before that Tamaki really was jealous. He didn’t want to start an argument about it, though, not while they were in the same room as Ryuu. 

Sougo didn’t think that it was a good idea to let someone from another company find out about their relationship, even if said person was an idol he personally looked up to. After all, he had no idea what TRIGGER thought about relationships within a group. “Tsunashi-san has enough skill to put pro-dancers to shame, and he’d be an amazing teacher.” 

Tamaki looked at Sougo for a long second before huffing in frustration. He remembered what he’d said about letting Sougo get angry in his stead, and he  honestly  wanted to keep his word, but it was hard when the person he constantly got angry at was Sougo himself. “Souchan, you’ve been praising this guy literally nonstop.” 

Stiffening slightly, Sougo decided that it’d be best to play dumb. He didn’t imagine that Tamaki would be any less peeved if he found out that Sougo knew he was jealous. The alpha was plenty pissed, and Sougo certainly didn’t need to be fanning the flames. “Huh?” 

“You know, I’ve been trying my best because you said you looked up to me,” Tamaki started, and Sougo couldn’t help the genuinely quizzical look that made its way onto his face. He'd said a lot of things, but this wasn’t one of them, even if it  was  sort of the truth. “But you just keep going on and on about how this dude is  so  wonderful.” 

“...did I really say that I looked up to you?” Sougo asked, wondering if he’d simply forgotten. 

“What!?” Tamaki demanded, unable to comprehend why Sougo seemed so confused. 

Wincing, Sougo bit back, “Didn’t I tell you not to get angry!” Then, in a smaller, slightly shyer, voice, he added, “I do think you’re a very good dancer as well. I don’t think I tell you that enough, do I? It's amazing that you’re so naturally talented.” 

Tamaki grumbled incoherently, unable to help but think that Sougo was sometimes too cute for his own good. If not for the fact that Ryuu was standing right next to them, Tamaki might already be kissing Sougo. “Shut up,” he muttered, feeling his own cheeks heat up from the praise. He didn’t know if Yamato had told him the truth last time, but it felt much better to hear it from the person himself. “Ugh, whatever.” 

Ryuu chuckled heartily, glad that whatever they’d been bickering about hadn’t escalated into a full-blown argument. “That’s really cute!” he commented, noting the embarrassment emanating from both of them. He thought back to what Tenn had said before, about Sougo probably also being an omega, and looked at the expressions they wore. “Tamaki-kun, were you trying to get your partner’s attention because you were jealous?” 

“Tsunashi-san, that’s not...” Sougo replied, eyes widening slightly at Ryuu’s choice of words. They  were  partners, the two members that formed MEZZO, but they were also partners in the romantic sense. He wondered if Ryuu was suspecting them already. 

“Shut up, Ero-ero Beast.” 

The amused smile dropped off Ryuu’s face. “...Ero-ero Beast...” 

Tamaki shrugged, now less angry than before. “I saw it in a magazine headline. There was also  Sexy Dragon  and  Pheromone Prince raised in a resort ,” Tamaki listed. “I’m not so sure what’s so special about your pheromones, though. You seem like a pretty typical alpha to me.” 

With a soft sigh, Ryuu replied, “That’s the image that my agency made up. I’m actually better at making beds than bed scenes.” 

“Is that so!?” Sougo exclaimed in surprise, immediately sending an apologetic smile in Tamaki’s direction. Even he agreed that that’d been too big of a response, for an omega who was already attached to his fated alpha. “Sorry, I was just shocked.” 

“It’s fine,” Ryuu assured. “If you use an iron, you can get it super crisp and clean.” 

“I’m not talking about the sheets...” Sougo said sheepishly. “Is it true that it’s all made up?” 

“Ah, that,” Ryuu said, chuckling softly as he nodded. “Yeah, it is. They say that I’m some hotel tycoon’s son, but in reality, the person my mother, my alpha parent, remarried was only casually in the hotel business. 

“My real father, my omega parent, is a fisherman in Okinawa. He'd wake up every morning at 3am, go out to sea, then come back a little past noon,” he explained with a small smile. He wasn’t ashamed of his omegan father, but it  was  a little strange to admit that he was nothing at all like what the company portrayed him as. “I was also supposed to be a fisherman, but then my dad’s boat broke down, and his health hadn’t been faring well... We were hard-pressed for money, so I went into showbiz.” 

“I can’t believe it...” Sougo muttered. “The sexy celebrity Tsunashi Ryuunosuke’s image is...” 

“That’s just how the entertainment industry is. You can’t believe everything. Tamaki-kun, I heard you’re looking for your younger sister?” 

“...yeah,” Tamaki replied reluctantly. The moment Ryuu had mentioned his father’s health, Tamaki’s mind had thought of his late mother. She'd also worked herself past her limits for his and Aya’s sakes, though all that’d done for her was give her an accelerated death sentence. 

Ryuu offered an encouraging smile. “I have three younger brothers. They're all good boys, and really cute,” he said, sounding every bit like a proud older brother. “My dream is to buy my dad a new boat and send all three of those kids to college. I also want to earn enough that my dad doesn’t have to suppress his heats in order to go out to sea. Even if he’s past the age to have kids, it’s not good to overuse those suppressants.” 

Tamaki’s gaze subconsciously travelled to Sougo’s figure, sighing inwardly at the badly concealed pain in his omega’s scent. He reacted the same way every time the topic of having kids was brought up, and Tamaki had no idea how to alleviate that pain. 

“That’s why,” Ryuu continued, as if not noticing the change in Sougo’s scent, and Tamaki’s head snapped back toward the other alpha, “I can’t just see your search for your younger sister as somebody else’s problem. If there’s anything I can help with, I’ll do it. Don't hesitate to ask.” 

“...Ryuu-aniki...” 

“I’m no gorgeous celebrity – I'm just a simple fisherman’s son, so I don’t have all that many connections...” Ryuu trailed off, smiling apologetically. He turned to Sougo, knowing that the Ousaka family had to have quite a wide social network. It was only then that he realised that something seemed off with Sougo, and he reached out a hand in concern. “Sougo-kun? Is something the ma-” 

“He’s fine,” Tamaki said tersely, moving so that Ryuu’s hand landed on his arm instead of Sougo’s shoulder. He didn’t mean to be rude, but he also didn’t want another alpha touching Sougo when he was already upset. “Souchan doesn’t like other people to touch him. I'm sorry that I called you Ero-ero and all, but  don’t  touch Souchan.” 

“It’s-” 

“-not okay,” Tamaki finished for Sougo, looking back at the omega with a frown. “It’s not okay, and  you’re  not okay. Even Ryuu-aniki can tell. You don’t need to hide it, you know.” 

Sougo sighed, nodding concededly. “I know that. But now isn’t the time to be talking about this,” the omega pointed out, wanting to avoid the topic as much as possible. He could be honest with Tamaki about how he felt, but not with Ryuu around. “We should get back to practicing.” 

Ryuu nodded in agreement, backing away from the duo when Tamaki didn’t seem to want to move away. He could guess what kind of relationship the two had, and he didn’t want to try anything while Tamaki was on edge. “We should,” he replied. “And it’s fine, calling me Ero-ero and whatnot. I'm quite used to it.” 

Tamaki’s responding nod was curt, and he slowly moved away from Sougo. “Yeah. Thanks for being worried about Aya, too.” 

“You’re quite honest, aren’t you?” Ryuu commented, chuckling to himself when Tamaki huffed in mild embarrassment. It was almost cute that he got all protective of Sougo; Ryuu certainly didn’t see it as a bad thing. An alpha  was  supposed to protect his omega. He opened his mouth to ask them if they were together, but decided against it. They'd tell him, if they ever saw a need. “You’re just like my younger brother. Alright! Let’s keep on pushing.” 

“Yes!” 

 

--- 

 

Riku peeked out of the practice room, looking around for Tenn. When he couldn’t spot his brother, he called out, “Tenn-nii? Are you still here?” 

“Don’t say that so loudly,” Tenn hissed, walking up from the stairs located right in front of the room they were using. He wore a frown on his face, and Riku wasn’t sure if it was because of the way he’d addressed him, or because of what’d happened between him and Iori. Or, knowing Tenn, it could be both of those reasons. “Do you want everyone to know that we’re brothers?” 

“But we’re the only ones using the practice rooms now...” Riku mumbled. It wasn’t as if the others didn’t already know that they were twins; the IDOLiSH7 members had found out rather early into the formation of their group. 

Tenn continued to frown at Riku, and the redhead let out an awkward laugh. He didn’t think it was a particularly good idea to tell Tenn about his and Iori’s relationship out here. “S-shall we go back in? I think Iori must be getting tired of waiting for us.” 

“You don’t think  I  was tired of waiting for you two?” Tenn asked in reply, his tone sounding snappier than he’d intended for it to. He sighed, walking past Riku and heading back into the practice room. “The two of you have some explaining to do.” 

Riku followed behind Tenn, closing the door behind him and exchanging a look with Iori, earning himself a frown and shake of the head from the omega. Tenn glanced between the two of them, raising a brow at whatever silent conversation the two were having. “So? Who wants to tell me the truth about what’s going on with you two?” 

Sending one last pout in Iori’s direction and getting the same frown in response, Riku sighed. “Fine, I’ll do it,” he conceded, making his way over to his boyfriend and putting himself between Tenn and Iori. It made Tenn purse his lips, but Riku wasn’t taking any chances. Iori had been crying just minutes ago, though admittedly it’d been no one’s fault but his own, and he didn’t want Tenn upsetting the omega again. “Well, long story short, we’re a fated couple.” 

“That was awfully direct,” Iori deadpanned. “Way to go, Nanase-san.” 

“I’d already guessed as much,” Tenn said with a small shrug. When the couple looked at him in confusion, he explained, “That night in your dorm? Izumi Iori was wearing your sweater, I could smell your scent on it, but I could also smell his omegan scent.” 

Iori looked at Tenn quizzically. “That doesn’t explain everything.” 

Tenn turned to look at Iori, heaving a sigh when Riku moved into his line of sight. “You don’t have to do that, you know,” he told Riku flatly. “I’m not going to attack him. I wouldn’t be interested in him even if he wasn’t already your fated omega. I actually guessed that you two were fated because of his scent. Not that there aren’t a million people out there who like strawberry donuts. I must say, though, that it wasn’t nice of you to use your alpha voice on an omega.” 

“I already apologised,” Riku grumbled, glancing back at Iori only to be met with an amused smile. “Don’t have to look so smug just because I’m being scolded by Tenn-nii, Iori.” 

Then, turning back to Tenn, Riku asked, “You’re not mad about this? And you’ll keep it a secret?” 

“I don’t see a problem, as long as you two don’t let it affect the quality of your work,” Tenn said. “But it has, so I might be a little peeved about it. The winners of Black or White’s Male Idol Award shouldn’t let themselves be affected by something like a centre change, much less get into a lover’s fight over it.” 

Iori felt his cheeks warm. “It wasn’t a lover’s fight,” he protested. Tenn looked at him in mild disbelief, and the omega mumbled, “It wasn’t  really  that bad... There was just some miscommunication. Thanks for, um, talking some sense into Nanase-san, Kujo-san.” 

“I didn’t do it for  you ,” Tenn pointed out. “IDOLiSH7 is the group that triumphed over TRIGGER last year. What kind of impression would people have of us, if you guys are in such a slump? TRIGGER, who won the previous year, lost to a group that would be so easily defeated by a few small setbacks?” 

Riku and Iori remained silent, and Tenn sighed again. “Comparing yourself to others was your pitfall, Riku. There's no way I could ever win against Yaotome Gaku. And there’s no way I could ever win against Tsunashi Ryuunosuke,” he said matter-of-factly. “But even so, there’s something that I have that the two of them can’t beat me at.” 

“Tenn-nii...” 

“Nothing good comes out of comparing yourself to others,” Tenn continued. “The only thing you ought to compare yourself to is your past self, and of course your future self. Show me that you, today, can win against them – your past selves that won against me at Black or White. And never stop working hard, so that you can continue to win tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and so on. Understood?” 

“Y-yes!” the couple replied in unison. 

“Now, shall we get back to practicing?” 

“Actually, I was thinking of going out for a quick minute to get a drink for all of us,” Riku said, pouting slightly went Tenn gave him a disapproving stare. “I know we’ve already wasted quite a bit of time, but it’ll only take me five minutes! There's a vending machine at the entrance of the building!” 

“Fine,” Tenn allowed. “Make it quick.” 

Riku’s face lit up, and he hurried to grab his wallet. He briefly entertained the thought of going over to Iori and giving him a quick peck on the cheek, but decided that that was probably pushing the limits of Tenn’s tolerance. Instead, he smiled brightly at Iori. “I’ll be back!” 

“Don’t run!” Iori called out. He watched Riku leave, a fond expression on his face. He hadn’t realised just how much he’d missed the alpha’s cheerfulness, even if it sometimes exasperated him to no end. He'd much rather have an overly-excited, often adorable, boyfriend than a moody one. “How cute.” 

He turned to take a seat by the wall, only to catch Tenn staring at him. There was something in the way Tenn was looking at him that made Iori want to squirm. “W-what is it, Kujo-san?” he asked, blushing slightly when he realised that Tenn must’ve caught the lovestruck look he’d had on his face earlier. 

“If you and Riku weren’t a fated couple,” Tenn started, wondering if he’d get in trouble with Riku for this, “do you think you’d still be with him? If you were just a normal alpha and omega who happened to be in the same group, I mean.” 

Iori furrowed his brows – he wasn’t sure why Tenn was asking this. “I suppose not,” he answered truthfully. “We both auditioned with the goal of becoming idols in mind, not in order to find a mate for ourselves. I might still be attracted to Nanase-san, but I might not ever have told him that.” 

“Have you ever considered another alpha, then?” 

“What?” 

“Me, for example,” Tenn said, rather nonchalantly. He didn’t expect Iori to say yes, of course, but he still wanted to make sure that the omega was loyal to Riku. He didn’t want to see Riku get hurt; it was enough that one of them was hurting because of something as silly as love. And maybe Tenn just wanted to see what kind of reactions he’d be able to evoke from Iori. 

If anything, Tenn simply wanted to forget about Gaku’s confession, even for a few seconds. He couldn’t help thinking about it – Gaku’s words kept replaying themselves in his head, day in and day out. He couldn’t seem to be able to get the confession out of his mind even when he was preoccupied with work. “Would you consider me?” 

Iori took a small step back, and Tenn took a step forward. “I don’t get where you’re going with this, Kujo-san,” he said warily. “Like Nanase-san just said, we’re a fated couple. We may not be mated yet, but I very much do not want to be with another alpha.” 

“Really?” Tenn asked, backing Iori up against the wall before placing a hand beside the omega’s head. 

Iori glanced at Tenn’s hand, noting that the alpha was effectively preventing him from escaping. He tried not to panic, although he was rather certain that his scent was betraying him. At the very least, Tenn probably wouldn’t be able to smell his fear past the scent neutralisers. 

Riku probably would, though. 

“Please let me go, Kujo-san,” Iori said, his voice kept as level as possible. He didn’t want to appear weak, but he couldn’t help freaking out. He had absolutely no idea why Tenn was doing this to him, but it reminded him of the night of his first date with Riku. It wasn’t a pleasant memory. “This is making me rather uncomfortable.” 

“You know, I do smell like cocoa, which is similar enough to dark chocolate,” Tenn continued, completely ignoring Iori. He leaned in towards the omega’s neck, noticing the way Iori stiffened. He still couldn’t smell much from the omega due to the scent neutralisers, though they  were  beginning to wear off. He certainly  could  catch the panic in the omega’s scent, even if only barely. He briefly wondered why. “And I do like the smell of donuts, even if chocolate donuts are preferable to strawberry.” 

Iori exhaled shakily, shutting his eyes as Tenn sniffed at his neck. He turned his face away from Tenn, unintentionally exposing his scent glands to the alpha. 

There was no malicious intent in Tenn’s scent, not at all like the drunken man from that night. If Tenn truly wanted to do something undesirable to him, scent neutralisers or not, Iori knew that he would be able to tell from such a close distance. All he was able to detect from Tenn’s scent, though, was a sort of reluctant resignation. 

Logically, he knew that Tenn didn’t really mean to do anything to him, though he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why the alpha was doing this. Still, memories of that night came rushing back – Iori could almost see that man’s face again, disgusting drunken lust written all over the man’s features. 

The fear he felt now was exactly the same as that night. He didn’t want any alpha this close to him unless it was Riku. “Please don’t,” he pleaded. 

“Don’t what?” 

The exact same thoughts from that night appeared in Iori’s mind:  Please hurry, Nanase-san.  

 

--- 

 

“...alright!” Gaku exclaimed, tone approving. “That was pretty good just now, wasn’t it?” 

OH ... Great...” Nagi said, too awed to come up with much else of a reply. 

“Just as expected, Yaotome...” 

“If I’d been born as someone like you, life would be pretty easy...” Mitsuki muttered. 

Gaku furrowed his brows as he looked at Mitsuki. He wasn’t sure if that’d been meant as a compliment or as an insult. “...what do you mean by that.” 

“Ah, I don’t mean it in a bad way,” Mitsuki clarified quickly. “It’s just... to be honest, I kind of envy you.” 

“Tenn once said something similar to me,” Gaku said, recalling the younger’s words from a while back. It was something that Tenn had said in passing, something that Gaku heard way too often, but he remembered it nonetheless. It'd been Tenn who’d said it to him, after all. “He said that I only succeeded, and so easily, because of the face and body I was born with.” 

The three IDOLiSH7 members stared at him, waiting for him to continue. “I hear it from other people quite often, too,” he added with a slight grimace. “But you know, every time I hear that, I can’t help but think... ‘The hell are you saying? You're pretty damn cool! Just what are you so dissatisfied with?’” 

Mitsuki couldn’t help but stare at Gaku blankly. “It kind of sounds like sarcasm coming from you...” 

“Just how is this sarcastic?” Gaku questioned incredulously. He'd seen the way Nagi had reacted when he’d gotten a tad bit too close to Mitsuki earlier, and while he didn’t know exactly what kind of relationship the two had, it was apparent that they were more than just teammates. He genuinely couldn’t understand what about his life Mitsuki was unhappy with. “Do I look like a man of perfect success to you?” 

The three IDOLiSH7 members nodded, and Gaku clicked his tongue in annoyance. “If so, then why don’t I have a cute partner?” he questioned, eliciting surprised expressions from all three. Gaku didn’t want to sound like he had so many gripes about life when he was the leader of a hugely successful idol group, but his lack of a love life was depressing. 

Even more depressing was that he’d been rejected, quite harshly, by someone whom he had to see every other day for work. 

“Huh?” Yamato asked, sounding unconvinced. “You don’t?” 

“I don’t, dammit.” 

“You’re not holding onto several beautiful women at once?” Nagi chimed in. 

“See, there it is! The person I like keeps using my title as the #1 Most Desired Man against me, too!” he exclaimed indignantly. He opted to leave out the part where he’d flirted with another girl in front of his crush and created a stupid misunderstanding – that’d been no one’s fault but his own. With a heavy sigh, Gaku said, “Man, I’m so depressed... 

“It’s the same as Black or White last year. We too were desperate. We too were hell-bent on winning, and wanted people to cheer for us. But even so, the world rooted for IDOLiSH7.” 

“Yaotome...” 

Gaku chuckled bitterly. “And it’s not like we let you win, right?” he asked. “I’ve only lived as myself. But even so, I’m trying my damn hardest to live. I'm dead serious about being Yaotome Gaku.” 

He looked at Mitsuki, and the beta averted his gaze from Gaku’s. Really, Gaku didn’t know what he was doing, giving advice to someone else when his own life was in a bit of a mess. Admittedly, he’d created this mess on his own, but it wasn’t like he’d wanted to be rejected by Tenn. “So, what are you going to do? Are you going to put your all into being Izumi Mitsuki?” 

“I am...” Mitsuki mumbled. It was probably a little strange that he was discussing his recent troubles with Gaku when he didn’t even talk much about it with Nagi. He hoped his boyfriend wouldn’t be too upset. “That’s what I’m trying to do! But I don’t know what’s right or wrong, and my thoughts are just a jumbled mess...” 

“It’s only a jumbled mess because you’re not listening to your own voice.” 

“My own voice...?” 

Gaku nodded. “Yeah. Don't look for right answers or whatnot. Sure, you might not have to work too hard if the ‘right’ way did exist, but there’s no such thing as an easy road,” he said.  If only there was an easy road  wherein  I don’t get rejected... Or, better, wherein I’d never confessed.  “Erase all the noise around you. Listen for your own voice. Instead of striving to become someone who’ll be loved by a hundred people, become someone you’ll love yourself. 

“Then, one day, you’ll be loved by tens of thousands of people. That's what it’s like to put your all into being yourself.” 

Nagi looked at Gaku oddly. Gaku’s advice was sound, extremely so, and Nagi was quite glad that there were others outside of IDOLiSH7 who were willing to try and cheer Mitsuki up. But, for some reason, Gaku’s scent didn’t exude the same confidence that he spoke in. 

The other two were betas, so they couldn’t smell the tinge of defeat in Gaku’s scent. It seemed to completely contradict what Gaku was saying, so Nagi couldn’t help wondering if Gaku wasn’t practicing what he preached. 

He briefly wondered if it had anything to do with his apparent lack of a romantic partner, though it seemed ludicrous that somebody like Yaotome Gaku could be worried about something like that. Still, Nagi had to ask. 

“In that case, Yaotome-shi... are  you  listening to your own voice?” 

Chapter Text

Riku’s nose twitched as he pressed the button on the vending machine, brows knitting together as he noticed the abrupt change in Iori’s scent. There were two drinks already dispensed, and the alpha’d been buying the last one, intending to head back up once he was done. 

When Iori’s scent went from panicked to downright distressed, Riku turned and bolted up the stairs, the drinks in the vending machine all but forgotten. 

The thirty seconds it took for Riku to get back to the practice room felt like an eternity – with each second that passed, every step that he took towards the practice room, Riku felt Iori’s distress increase. The alpha cursed himself for taking so long to buy drinks; he regretted even going to get the drinks in the first place. 

He couldn’t shake off the notion that this situation felt eerily familiar, almost as if he was experiencing a sense of déjà vu. It didn’t occur to him, not immediately, that this had happened before. Leaving Iori alone for a short while and coming back to realise that the omega was in trouble was not a new experience for Riku. It took more than a few seconds for him to realise that Iori’s scent now was nearly the same as when he’d nearly been assaulted on their first date. 

Riku had no idea what to expect when he got to the practice room, but the last thing he’d expected to see was Tenn trapping Iori against the wall, leaning in towards Iori’s exposed neck. The position they were in now was almost exactly the same as that night. The only difference was that this time, instead of looking at Tenn defiantly like he’d done before, Iori had his eyes tightly shut. 

The first thing that Riku felt was confusion. He couldn’t come up with a single plausible reason why Tenn would be doing this; he definitely wasn’t the type to assault omegas, especially when he knew that Iori was already together with Riku. 

When Tenn leaned in even closer to Iori, the omega let out a whimper. Riku felt his blood run cold, and he snapped back to reality. “Tenn-nii,” Riku said, fingers curling into fists, “what are you doing?” 

Tenn glanced at Riku, almost as if he hadn’t noticed the redhead re-entering the room. “Just having a little fun,” he replied nonchalantly, lips curving slightly into a smirk. “What about it?” 

“Get away from Iori,” Riku warned in a low voice. He didn’t want to hit Tenn, he really didn’t, but he’d do what was necessary to protect his omega, even if that included getting into a fistfight with his brother. “Now.” 

“Okay, okay,” Tenn conceded, holding both hands up and backing away from Iori. 

Riku spared no time in crossing the room, placing himself in between Tenn and Iori defensively. Iori didn’t resist when Riku pulled him into his arms, all the while glaring at Tenn. “He didn’t do anything to you, did he, Iori?” Riku asked. When Iori shook his head slightly, Riku let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding in. “I shouldn’t have left you alone. I'm sorry. You must’ve been scared.” 

Iori bit back another whimper and nodded. “It reminded me of-” 

“I know, I know,” Riku said, letting Iori bury his face against the crook of his neck. He turned to glare at Tenn, again, and demanded, “What the hell was that, Tenn-nii? You said you wouldn’t do anything to Iori. I trusted you!” 

“I wasn’t really going to do anything,” Tenn huffed. He knew what he’d said, and that what he’d done had completely contradicted that. Riku had every right to be angry at him, especially since Iori seemed really affected by his actions. “I just wanted to make sure that he was, you know, loyal to you.” 

Riku’s expression changed into one of utter disbelief. “You thought Iori would cheat on me? Really?” 

“I had to be sure.” 

“I don’t believe him,” Iori muttered, softly enough that only Riku could hear. He was still incredibly shaken by what’d happened, more because it’d been so similar to what’d happened during their first date than because he’d felt threatened by Tenn. Even so, he was aware that Tenn’s scent had been anything but malicious. “He’s hiding something.” 

Riku frowned – for Iori to speak up so strongly, even as he held onto Riku tightly as an anchor to stop himself from trembling, meant that the omega truly believed Tenn was lying. The redhead glanced at Tenn, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. “That’s not all, is it?” 

Tenn raised a brow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said flippantly. “I was worried that my brother’s fated omega would be unfaithful to him. What better way than to test that, than use myself as a comparison? I certainly wouldn’t lose to you in looks or charisma.” 

“The Tenn-nii I know wouldn’t treat omegas with such disrespect.” 

“That was many years ago. You don’t know me as well as you think you do, Riku.” A lie, really, because Kujo’s training had included being respectful to omegas. Tenn knew better than to treat omegas like they were a lesser species. He only wished he could find it in him to be attracted to an omega, like he was meant to, instead of having a certain Yaotome Gaku occupying his thoughts all day. 

“Are you happy now, then?” Riku questioned. “Iori nearly got taken advantage of by a drunk alpha in the past, and what you did was almost exactly the same. Are you satisfied with yourself now?” 

Blinking as he processed this new piece of info, Tenn said, “...is that so. I wondered why he was so afraid of me getting close to him. In that case, I apologise. I shouldn’t have done that. I didn’t realise that there was some past trauma.” 

Iori sighed softly, loosening his grip on Riku and meeting Tenn’s gaze. It took some effort to keep his voice steady as he spoke. “Then tell me: why did you seem so reluctant to do it? Resigned, even?” 

“I told you, I don’t know what you’re getting at,” Tenn snapped. Then, in a softer voice, “You wouldn’t believe it, anyway. It must be easy to be a fated couple.” 

"Easy?” Iori repeated incredulously. “Which part of it is easy? Is it the part where, if we’re anywhere near each other during our respective heats or ruts, we could trigger the other’s cycle? Or maybe it’s the part where you can’t hide how you feel from the other person?” 

Riku grimaced. “It does help in situations like these, though...” 

“You want to know what’s so easy?” Tenn asked, not bothering to wait for a reply before continuing. “If you meet your fated pair, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get together, right? Happily ever after, and all that. Your life’s decided for you. It's even easier for you guys, because neither of you were with someone else when you met each other. Have you ever considered what it’d be like if you’d already had a romantic partner, and then met your fated pair? What then? 

“It’d be an easy enough thing to solve if your original partner was someone you could mate with, right? You’d just have to mate with them, and the fated bond disappears like it never existed. But what if the person you like isn’t somebody you can mate with? What if your family might not even accept you being with someone of the same secondary gender as you? What if, after all that, one of you meets your fated pair and breaks it off? Then all of that effort would’ve gone to waste.” 

“Tenn-nii, do you... like somebody?” Riku asked slowly. “You can tell us, you know. Since you know our secret, we can help keep a secret for you too. I’m still angry with you, though.” 

Sighing defeatedly, Tenn replied, “So what if I do like someone? It doesn’t matter. Kujo-san wouldn’t approve of me being in a relationship, and neither would my company. And I promised to dedicate myself to my job, my fans. What am I even doing, considering something as stupid as love?” 

“It obviously matters if it’s bothering you this much,” Iori pointed out flatly, now calmer than he’d been a few minutes ago. He ran through the things that Tenn had said “Who is it? If it’s someone of the same secondary gender as you... it isn’t a member of TRIGGER, is it?” 

The way Tenn stiffened, if only for a fraction of a second, made Iori’s jaw drop. “Wait, seriously? Who?” 

“Why am I even telling this to you two...” Tenn muttered, hoping he wouldn’t come to regret this. “It’s Gaku. I like Yaotome Gaku. If I ever find out that you guys ratted me out, I don’t care what it does to IDOLiSH7’s image – I will expose your relationship to the public. Do not try me.” 

Riku's jaw dropped along with Iori’s. “Yaotom-!?” 

“Do you have to be so loud!?” Tenn hissed, clamping a hand over Riku’s mouth. “That’s not even the worst part. Idiot confessed to me, and I ran away. I bet he thinks I hate him now.” 

“He what?!” 

“It was super unromantic, too,” Tenn snorted. “I was riding in front of him in a soba delivery vehicle.” 

“A soba-?!” 

“You’re not saying he’s actually the deliveryman from Yamamura Soba, are you?” Iori questioned. 

Tenn shrugged. He was spilling so many secrets already; certainly a few more wouldn’t hurt. “The one and only. Don't tell him you heard it from me, though. He doesn’t like people finding out that he does soba delivery as a side job.” 

“So, let me get this straight,” Iori said. He’d all but forgotten the fact that Tenn had invaded his personal space and had dug up past memories he’d rather not remember. There was simply too much to process for the omega to harp on that. “You like Yaotome-san. Yaotome-san actually likes you back, and he confessed to you on a soba delivery vehicle, but you ran away. He is also the soba deliveryman who frequently takes our orders.” 

Nodding, Tenn replied, “That sounds about right.” 

“Why... did you run away?” Riku asked. “Because your contracts don’t allow it?” 

“There’s that,” Tenn agreed, because it was true, “and Kujo-san wants me to focus on being an idol. He wants me to surpass Zero one day, and he wants me to do it alone. Being in a relationship, even being in TRIGGER, is a hindrance in his opinion. TRIGGER was always meant as a stepping stone for me to gain popularity. To him, anyway. I've never thought of TRIGGER that way.” 

"Have you tried telling him?” Iori asked. “Kujo-san, I mean.” 

“What’d be the point of that?” Tenn questioned flatly. He could already imagine the disappointment and disapproval on Kujo’s face if he ever found out about Tenn’s feelings for Gaku. He didn’t want to give Kujo a reason to pull him out of TRIGGER; he knew Kujo intended to do so eventually, and he saw no need to give him a catalyst to do it sooner. 

Riku frowned at the mention of Kujo, and Iori sent his alpha a knowing glance. Riku could be terribly transparent with his feelings. “Why does it matter what Kujo thinks?” Riku demanded. He'd never understood why Tenn was so loyal, so obedient, to Kujo – he certainly didn’t see a need to respect Kujo’s opinion to this extent. “Don’t you think it’s unfair to not give Yaotome-san a proper reply?” 

“You know what? Let's drop this. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. We should practice.” 

With a slight frown, Iori said, “I agree with Nanase-san. Yaotome-san does deserve to know how you feel about him.” Tenn shot him a half-hearted glare, and Iori rolled his eyes. “I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but this is me speaking from experience. It's always better to communicate properly.” 

Nodding furiously in agreement, Riku said, “That’s right, Tenn-nii! You should-” 

“Just. Drop it. Please. We don’t have much time left to practice.” 

Riku and Iori looked at each other, both wearing similar expressions of disbelief. But Tenn was right, and they did need to practice. “Okay,” the omega conceded. He could always continue this discussion with Riku privately at night. “Let’s get back to practice.” 

 

--- 

 

Gaku looked at Nagi in a mix of confusion and incredulity. “Am I listening to my own voice?” he repeated, unsure if he’d heard the blond alpha wrongly. 

Nagi nodded simply. “You told Mitsuki to become someone he’ll also love. What about you?” 

“I... don’t dislike myself, no,” Gaku replied, still as confused as before. “And I am being myself.” 

“Then why do you seem so sad? Defeated? Resigned?” 

“...huh?” 

“Your scent,” Nagi offered as an explanation. “You’re not hiding it very well.” 

The two betas looked at Nagi curiously, and Gaku’s brows knit together. “I’m not?” he asked, not at all realising that he’d let his guard down. He was usually much better at keeping his scent neutral, at not letting others know how he was feeling through his scent. All three members of TRIGGER were good at doing so, mainly because it helped a lot when it came to maintaining their professionalism. 

Gaku wasn’t sure why he’d allowed his control to slip, and in front of IDOLiSH7, no less. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t been aware that Nagi was an alpha, either. But Nagi was looking at him expectantly, now, as were Yamato and Mitsuki. Gaku sighed. “To hell with it. Say, have any of you liked someone?” 

Yamato blinked owlishly at TRIGGER’s leader, making sure not to glance at the couple standing right beside him. Nagi and Mitsuki, on the other hand, glanced at each other briefly, wondering if Nagi had been too obviously possessive of Mitsuki. “Why do you ask?” Mitsuki asked with a nervous chuckle. 

“Nanase and Izumi-otouto are together, are they not?” Gaku asked instead, earning narrowed gazes from all three IDOLiSH7 members. He sighed, pursing his lips. It was too easy to tell what they were thinking right now. “Relax. I’m not going to tattle to gossip magazines or news channels. I just heard from Tenn, because he went to your dorm the other evening.” 

“...why do you want to know?” Yamato asked warily. He was nothing if not overly protective of his members, especially the younger ones. And maybe he had an exceptionally soft spot for Riku. If there was a chance that someone else was out to harm any of them, even if he’d never say it, he’d do whatever he could to protect them. 

“I may or may not need love advice, alright? I'll keep their secret, and you’ll keep mine. That's how these things work, isn’t it?” 

Nagi glanced at Mitsuki again, and the beta nodded slightly in response to his silent question. “If it’s love advice you need,” Nagi began, and Gaku turned to look at him, “you don’t have to look too far. We may be able to help you. Mitsuki and me, I mean. Not Yamato.” 

“Oi, leave out that last part, will you.” 

“I did suspect as much,” Gaku shrugged, leaning against the wall and looking between the two. “To put it simply, I confessed to the person I like, and I was rejected. In fact, I think they were so turned off by the confession, they couldn’t even stand the remaining three-minute drive to their house.” 

From the side, Yamato let out a low whistle. “Who’d reject the great Yaotome Gaku? It must take some guts to just reject you outright like that, especially since you were driving them home. Who is it?” 

“How direct, Yamato-san...” Mitsuki deadpanned. It wasn’t that he wasn’t curious, but surely there was a more tactful way to ask the question. Yamato, very obviously, did not care for his lack of tact, instead looking at Gaku and waiting for a reply. 

“You guys can keep another secret, right?” Gaku asked, and the trio nodded. 

“Considering you already know that Riku and Iori are together, as are Nagi and I,” Mitsuki pointed out. “I don’t see why we can’t keep another secret for you. Fire away, Yaotome.” 

“Unless you like somebody in IDOLiSH7,” Yamato added quickly. “That might be a problem.” 

“I’m pretty sure he isn’t in IDOLiSH7,” Gaku assured with a sigh. “It’s Tenn.” 

“Oh, great, not anyone in...” Yamato trailed off, jaw dropping as he processed what Gaku’d said. “Wait. Tenn as in, Kujo Tenn, right? The one in TRIGGER? That Tenn? You like him?” 

Gaku frowned at Yamato’s tone; he felt slightly offended. “What’s wrong with that?” 

“Nothing!” Nagi exclaimed brightly. “Please excuse Yamato. He gets surprised easily.” 

“But Kujo, huh,” Mitsuki mused. “I can see why he’d say no. He's too professional for a relationship. It must be weird for you two to work together after that.” 

“He can’t really look me in the eye now,” Gaku agreed. He thought back to how Tenn had blushed when Gaku had iced his ankle for him. He did wonder, sometimes, if that had meant that Tenn did also feel something for him, but that’d seemed too conceited of him. Besides, Tenn had explicitly told him that he’d only reacted that way because it was awkward. 

It certainly couldn’t have been that he was embarrassed. 

Mitsuki hummed thoughtfully. Tenn certainly didn’t seem like the type who’d be interested in a relationship, least of all with a teammate. At the same time, though, he’d always thought of Tenn as a rather straightforward person. It struck the beta as slightly odd that Tenn wouldn’t be able to meet Gaku’s gaze if he’d truly rejected Gaku. “What did Kujo say?” Mitsuki prodded, unable to help but be curious. “When he rejected you, I mean.” 

With a shrug, Gaku replied, “Nothing. He didn’t give me a reply at all. He just told me to stop driving, and then he got off and walked home.” 

“So... there’s a chance he wouldn’t have said no,” Mitsuki pointed out. 

“He literally couldn’t stand to be around me for another minute,” Gaku deadpanned. He didn’t want to acknowledge the hope that he’d long ago stamped down. “I don’t see how that could possibly be anything but a rejection.” 

OH, Yaotome-shi...” Nagi sighed, shaking his head forlornly, as if this was a tragedy. “I do agree with Mitsuki. Kujo-shi might have been too thrown off by the confession to respond, and too embarrassed. I do also think that he opted not to give you an answer because he did not want to give you a dishonest reply. He is a rather straightforward person, is he not? Of course, you know him better than us. This is just what we think.” 

“He can also be surprisingly nice,” Gaku grumbled. Nagi and Mitsuki made a strong point, but Gaku didn’t want to disillusion himself even more than he already was. Tenn obviously wanted things to go back to the way they were before the confession – it didn’t really matter why. Even if he did like Gaku back, there was a good reason why he hadn’t said so. Gaku could respect Tenn’s choices. “I wouldn’t put it past him to be considerate of my feelings by not giving a proper rejection.” 

“Is that so,” Yamato commented dryly. “He can also be surprisingly mean. Like how he is to Riku. I don’t see why he would want to protect your feelings. Wouldn’t it be better for both of you if he properly turned you down? Instead of leaving you hanging like that?” 

Gaku heaved a soft sigh, for what seemed like the twentieth time in the past half hour. “What all of you are trying to say is that I shouldn’t give up so easily, am I right?” he asked, earning three nods in response from the trio. “I don’t see why I can’t do that. He has to give me an answer eventually.” 

“That’s the way to go,” Yamato said approvingly. “Now then. Mitsu and Yaotome are both in better moods than before, so I say we continue where we left off.” 

 

--- 

 

“Hey, could I ask you guys something?” 

Tamaki and Sougo looked at Ryuu simultaneously. “What is it?” the omega asked. 

They were taking a break after finally getting the choreography down, Tamaki having seated himself between Ryuu and Sougo. He'd also been inching them further away from Ryuu, and though Sougo had noticed his alpha doing so, he hadn’t called him out for it. It was endearing, somewhat, how protective and jealous Tamaki could be. 

Of course, Ryuu noticed it as well, but chose to keep quiet about it as Sougo did. It was interesting for him to see Tamaki attempt to discreetly shift away from him, bit by bit. Ryuu wasn’t offended by it, not really. He was slightly amused, and perhaps a little intrigued. “You and Tamaki-kun are a couple?” he asked, though the sentence sounded more like a statement than a question. 

Sougo choked on the water he’d been drinking, and Tamaki’s eyes widened in response. He was quick to take the bottle from Sougo, patting the omega’s back with his other hand and looking his boyfriend over in concern. “Souchan? Are you okay?” 

“I’m- fine,” Sougo replied, his voice coming out in a squeak. “Never mind me. Tsunashi-san, whatever gave you that idea?” 

Tamaki made a face. “Way to hurt my feelings, Souchan. Just tell him the truth.” 

“You are, then,” Ryuu commented with a small smile. 

Turning to the elder, Tamaki pursed his lips. “I like you, Ryuu-aniki, but this had better not be an attempt to flirt with Souchan. I’m not good at sharing, nor do I want to share.” 

“No, no, I’m not interested in Sougo-kun,” Ryuu assured. “I just wanted to know, is all.” 

“Well that was direct,” Sougo chuckled dryly. He heaved a soft sigh, meeting Tamaki’s gaze and nodding in compliance. Ryuu did tell them about his secret, so it seemed fair that he knew one of theirs as well. It also didn’t seem like he wanted to know about their relationship in order to turn it into a scandal. “But, with regards to your original question, we... are. A couple.” 

“Riku-kun and Iori-kun as well?” 

“If we’re going to reveal everyone’s secrets, we might as well go all the way,” Tamaki shrugged. “Mikki and Nagicchi are together, too. But they’re not a fated couple. The fated couples are just us and Rikkun and Iorin.” 

Tamaki-kun!” Sougo hissed, eyes wide in slight horror as he looked at his alpha. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Ryuu, but it didn’t seem right for Tamaki to be giving away their friends’ secrets. “You can’t just go around telling everybody that!” 

“But Ryuu-aniki isn’t just anybody?” Tamaki retorted, sounding confused. “I mean, he won’t go around blabbing about us to everyone, will he?” 

“I promise I won’t,” Ryuu told them, offering an assuring smile to Sougo. The omega pursed his lips before eventually sighing and nodding. It wasn’t as if he could take back Tamaki’s words. “I just wanted to know because I have these two friends, and I’m sure they like each other, but they can’t seem to act on their feelings. Do you think there’s anything I can do to help them out?” 

Tamaki raised a curious brow. “Gakkun and Tenten, you mean?” he asked bluntly. 

This time, it was Ryuu who looked at Tamaki with wide eyes, almost like a deer caught in headlights. He could see how they felt for each other easily enough, considering he spent a significant amount of time with both of them. He wasn’t oblivious to the glances they’d sneak when the other wasn’t looking. But for even Tamaki to notice this simply meant that they were easier to read than he’d thought. “It was that obvious?” he asked, earning a shrug from the younger. 

“The way they argue reminds me of me and Souchan, or Rikkun and Iorin.” 

Chuckling dryly, Ryuu nodded in agreement. “They do argue a lot. I don’t think either of them notice that the other likes them, though,” Ryuu sighed. He thought of the strange atmosphere that’d been hanging between the two for the past couple weeks. It was normal for Gaku and Tenn to throw insults at each other – it certainly wasn’t normal for them to avoid each other. He couldn’t help but wonder if something had happened during that time. 

Whatever it was, Ryuu didn’t like it. He much preferred hearing them bicker about the littlest of things. And maybe he’d been hoping that one of them would stop running away from their feelings and face up to it, regardless of whether or not their contract allowed it. Surely they could work something out with Sousuke if they managed to get together. 

“And you want our advice to help them get together?” Sougo asked unsurely. “I’m not sure we’d be of much help, though... From the start, we’ve been influenced by our natural attraction to each other. This probably isn’t a method that would work for Yaotome-san and Kujo-san.” 

“Then let me ask you this,” Ryuu said. “Do you think it’s bad to be together? Does it affect your work when you have an argument, or are you distracted by each other during schedules? Tenn can be terribly obstinate when it comes to professionalism. I suspect that’s one reason why he’s holding back.” 

Sougo glanced at Tamaki, almost as if searching his partner’s face for answers. “We try not to let our relationship affect us at work,” he replied in the end. Tamaki nodded in agreement, and Sougo continued, “It’s difficult sometimes, because we can’t hide our scents from each other, but we do what we can. I believe it won’t be a problem for Yaotome-san and Kujo-san.” 

“Now if only I could get them to confess...” Ryuu trailed off with yet another sigh. “They’re stubborn.” 

“Maybe we could get the other guys to help,” Tamaki suggested. “Those in their shuffle units. We still have one or two practices together, don’t we? I'm sure they wouldn’t mind.” 

“W-wouldn’t that be too meddlesome?” 

“It’s fine, isn’t it? What’s the worst that could happen? They don’t get together, right?” 

“I suppose...” Sougo conceded. 

Beaming, Ryuu exclaimed, “That’d be great! I just want them to be honest with themselves. If they decide not to get together, then at least they’d have told each other how they felt.” Then he moved towards the duo, ready to throw his arms around them in a hug. “Thanks, in advance, for helping out!” 

“Hey, no touching!” 

 

--- 

 

“Let’s take a break, everyone!” 

“Here you go,” Banri said, handing out bentos to each idol. “It’s obento.” 

Gaku took the bento from Banri with a smile, looking at its contents and widening his eyes in surprise. He looked back up at Banri. “Whoa, it’s sushi-ori! Do you guys get good stuff like this all the time?” 

Banri’s gaze darted to Otoharu, who was standing in the corner of the room while fiddling with his camera. The sight made the omega want to laugh with fond exasperation – it was ridiculous how easy it was to excite the older beta. “Ah, well.” 

“How should I put it...” Yamato trailed off, also looking at their president dryly. 

“It’d be nice if TRIGGER came here every day...” Mitsuki finished for him. 

Tenn paid no heed to their conversation. “I wonder if Momo-san is well,” he spoke up, and the others turned to look at him. “He doesn’t seem to be in top condition lately.” 

“This is Momo-san we’re talking about,” Gaku responded. “I’m sure he’ll be able to sing again in no time. Speaking of people who haven’t been in top condition lately...” 

Tenn shot Gaku a narrowed gaze, silently warning him to keep quiet about his sprain, and TRIGGER’s leader sighed. He hadn’t expected Tenn to go around complaining about it, especially not to Riku. That only meant that there was nobody to make sure Tenn didn’t push himself too hard, something that Gaku would rather avoid. 

Riku didn’t notice the looks the two exchanged with each other, instead frowning and glancing at the members of TRIGGER. “Was he unable to sing even on TRIGGER’s TV show?” 

“He couldn’t at yours?” Gaku asked, genuinely confused. Riku nodded simply, and Gaku felt his own brows knit into a slight frown. “Is he okay...” 

“Since this is such a rare opportunity,” Otoharu said suddenly, “how about we take a picture to commemorate this occasion?” 

“...who is that man with the camera?” Tenn deadpanned. 

“That’s our company president.” 

“Huh!?” 

By now, Otoharu had walked over to Gaku, holding out a blank shikishi and marker. “Could you sign this for me?” he asked politely, and Gaku blinked at the president of Takanashi Productions owlishly. He wasn’t quite sure how to react to Otoharu, thinking back to when he’d heard the beta and his father arguing a few months ago. “Yaotome-kun was quite huffy last time, so it was hard to ask you guys.” 

Tenn couldn’t hide his snicker when he saw the dumbfounded expression on Gaku’s face. It was probably extremely awkward for him to be interacting with someone his father’s age, even more awkward to be gushed over by said man. “Oi, sign the damned thing, Gaku,” Tenn called out, snickering once more when Gaku shot him a dirty look. “It’s not every day you get a meet a fan up close.” 

“S-sorry about that...” Gaku said, turning back to address Otoharu. “My dad...” 

“It’s okay, it’s okay!” Otoharu assured brightly, positively beaming when Gaku took the shikishi and marker from him. “Ah, could you write ‘To Otoharu-san' on it?” 

From behind him, Tsumugi flushed in embarrassment, “Oh, come on dad...” 

Riku laughed, and Iori elbowed him in the side. 

“Anyway!” Tsumugi piped in. “We will be surveying the Zero Arena stage in a few hours! They’re letting us see it in advance!” 

“That’s amazing!” Mitsuki exclaimed, evidently shocked. “We can go inside the stadium already?!” 

Anesagi nodded. “I believe the audience seats are under construction, but the stage is finished. You better show me the fruit of today’s joint practice there. I will not stand for anyone dragging TRIGGER down!” 

Chapter Text

“Whoa...” Mitsuki muttered, looking at the newly refurbished stage. “So this is what the renewed Zero Arena looks like...”

“To think that we’ll be dancing on such a splendid stage...” Ryuu said, his voice sounding just as awed as Mitsuki’s. “It is truly an honour...”

They'd gotten another hour of practice after lunch before leaving Takanashi Productions for Zero Arena. The staff had kindly showed them around the backstage, giving them a brief tour of the waiting rooms and explaining the layout to them. It was only after they’d gone around the entire backstage that they’d come to the main hall of the arena, where most of them were looking at the stage in a sort of reverie.

Gaku, though impressed by the grandness of the stage, was more concerned with the state of a certain younger alpha’s ankle. He was standing in the back with Tenn, a little distance away from the others, and he was rather sure that he noticed Tenn favouring his uninjured leg – again. “Oi, Tenn.”

Tenn glanced at Gaku briefly before looking back at the stage. “What?”

“How’s your ankle?”

“You don’t have to be so worried all the time, you know,” Tenn sighed. His ankle was starting to hurt a little, which was normal considering they’d been practicing for nearly the entire morning. That was, of course, excluding the time they’d spent arguing and talking things out. He could tolerate the throbbing ache, but that didn’t mean it was comfortable. “My ankle’s fine.”

“Huh. That must be why you’re favouring your left ankle,” Gaku deadpanned.

“Stop being a naggy old man,” Tenn hissed. “It’ll be fine. I just need to rest it when I get home.”

Sighing under his breath, Gaku said, “Just let me look at it later. Don't argue, or I’ll tell Nanase.”

Tenn gaped at Gaku incredulously. “Are you threatening me now? You wouldn’t,” he said. He briefly considered reminding Gaku that he too knew some of Gaku’s secrets, but he’d already told Riku and Iori that the leader was a part-time soba deliveryman. The thought of explaining how that had come up in conversation wasn’t something Tenn wanted to entertain.

“Nanase, I have something to tell you.”

Fine, I’ll do it. Shut up!”

“What is it?” Riku asked, looking over at the duo.

“Oh, nothing much. Tenn was just telling me about your childhood together.”

“...okay?” Riku replied, clearly confused. “That’s... good? I guess?”

“It’s pretty interesting,” Gaku agreed, ending the conversation and looking back down at Tenn with a smug smile. “It’s not so bad to listen now and then, is it?”

With a huff, Tenn muttered, “I cannot believe the nerve of some people.”

Gaku wasn’t at all bothered by Tenn’s tone. “Hey, it’s your choice.”

“Alright then, let’s get started!” Anesagi called out, cutting their conversation short. “Tenn’s group is first. Are you ready, Tenn?”

Shooting Gaku one last glare, Tenn turned to Anesagi and nodded. “Yes. I'll be in your care.”

“Riku-san, Iori-san, we’re counting on you!”

The couple went up to stand beside Tenn on the stage. “Yes!”

“Hey, Tenn-nii, what was Yaotome-san talking to you about?” Riku asked as they got into position. “You were really telling him about our childhood?”

“It was actually about our schedules tomorrow.”

“Really? Is that why you’re so disgruntled?” Iori asked sarcastically. “Couldn't have guessed.”

“Drop it, Izumi Iori.”

“If you say so.”

The music started playing, and the trio eased into the first steps of the choreography.

The rest of them watched from the audience seats, Gaku keeping his gaze on Tenn and resisting the urge to sigh at the way the younger was favouring his injured ankle. Beside him, Ryuu commented,” This is great! Tenn, Riku-kun, and Iori-kun are all so cute and stylish with this pop song!”

“I wonder how many people will figure it out just from watching that,” Gaku said offhandedly.

“Huh?”

“That they’re twins,” Gaku clarified, just as the song ended and Anesagi started clapping.

“Good job, Tenn! That was the best!” she called out, sounding very much like a proud mother. Then, as an afterthought, she added, “The IDOLiSH7 boys were pretty good too. Next!”

“Yamato-san, Mitsuki-san, Nagi-san, good luck!”

“Yeah!”

“Sure, sure.”

My girl, I will show you my very best, just for you.”

“Thank you very much!” Tsumugi replied, looking over at Gaku. “Good luck to you too, Gaku-san!”

Gaku nodded with a small smile, gaze flickering to Tenn briefly. Tenn met his gaze for a fraction of a second, and then he was looking away. Gaku did sigh, this time. He'd find a way to make Tenn show him his ankle afterwards. “Leave it to me.”

Riku’s face lit up as the quartet performed their song, looking over at Tenn and Iori with an excited grin on his face. “They’re so cool! Both their song and their dance are flashy, so I’m sure the audience will be the most pumped up for this performance!”

Iori nodded, though his smile was more thoughtful than excited. “It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it... seeing your brother in another group,” the omega said.

“Isn’t it lonely?” Riku replied in agreement. “I get it, though. I mean, that's how I always feel.”

Belatedly realising that he might’ve been rubbing salt into Riku’s wound, Iori grimaced slightly. “Ah, I didn’t mean it that way, Nanase-san.”

“It’s fine,” Riku assured. “I’m glad that I’m in IDOLiSH7.”

“And now we’re together,” Tenn added, eliciting another grin from Riku.

“Good work, everyone!” Tsumugi praised. “You were all super cool!”

“Right?” the four replied in unison.

“Thank you very much, my sweet girl,” Nagi said. “Let me blow a kiss to you, filled with my gratitude.”

“Stop that,” Mitsuki snorted, elbowing his boyfriend playfully. “What a flirt.”

“Oh you, Nagi-san...” Tsumugi chuckled, by now used to Nagi’s antics. She noticed the sudden movement beside her, glancing at Anesagi to see that the elder had crouched down abruptly. “W-what’s wrong, Anesagi-san!? You crouched down so suddenly...!”

“...I-it’s nothing,” she muttered. “Please continue.”

“A-alright then. Tsunashi-san, Sougo-san, Tamaki-san, we look forward to seeing you perform!”

“Yes, I’ll be in your care,” Ryuu said. “Are you two okay?”

“Yes!”

“Yeah.”

“Oh...” Yamato muttered as the trio performed, unable to help but be amazed at the way they danced. “They’re so sensual... The Tsunashi Effect sure is powerful...”

Mitsuki shook his head. “No, no. It's because #4 from our team is the 5th Most Desired Man.”

“Sougo has always been sexy,” Nagi added, and Mitsuki raised a brow at him. For a moment Nagi panicked, wondering if Mitsuki was jealous, but the way his lips were quirked upwards in mild amusement said otherwise. “There’s sensuality in remaining clothes. It's wabi-sabi.”

“They’re so sexy...” all three sighed at the same time.

“Ryuu, good job! That was se- that was sensational!”

“Sougo-san, Tamaki-san, good work out there! With that, we’re done checking the stage!”

 

---

 

Closing the door behind him, Gaku instructed, “Show me your ankle.”

Tenn shot Gaku a half-hearted glare, but sat down on the closed toilet lid and lifted his leg.

He and Gaku had gone backstage while the others gathered to cool down and talk about the day’s practice. They'd intended to head into one of the waiting rooms, but they were all locked, so Gaku had suggested going into the toilets instead. The suggestion had earned him a blank stare from Tenn, but they both agreed that there wasn’t really anywhere else to go.

When Gaku’d called him over for what he said was a ‘quick discussion’, Riku had looked at Tenn in a mix of curiosity and concern. Tenn could understand why; considering he’d admitted that he had feelings for Gaku, and that the elder had confessed to him, it was only natural for Riku to think that something was up. Iori had shaken his head at his alpha, and for once Tenn was glad for the omega’s presence. He didn’t know if he’d have been able to come up with an excuse for Riku on the spot.

Gaku bent down on one knee, placing Tenn’s foot on the other and pulling his shoe off, along with the ankle support he was wearing. He didn’t notice the blush on Tenn’s face; the position Gaku was in was nothing if not misleading, almost as if he was proposing. “It’s swelling again,” Gaku sighed, brows knitting into a frown. “You should’ve just told Nanase and Izumi-otouto that you had to take it easy.”

“That’s unprofessional,” Tenn retorted. “Besides, we don’t get a lot of time to practice with them, so I wasn’t about to waste today by sitting out. Wouldn’t want to lose to yours and Ryuu’s units.”

Gaku rolled his eyes and felt around Tenn’s ankle, squeezing gently and watching the younger’s face for any signs of pain. Apart from a slight grimace here and there, though, Tenn didn’t react much to the slight pressure on his injured ankle. “It isn’t a competition, you know,” Gaku said dryly. “At last it’s looking much better than the first day.”

“Gee, I wonder why,” Tenn deadpanned. “Might it have been because, contrary to popular belief, I actually know how to take care of an injured ankle? Shocker.”

“You don’t have to be so sarcastic,” Gaku muttered. “I’m just concerned.”

Because you like me, right? Tenn wanted to ask, but bit his tongue before the words could leave his mouth. He'd been on edge ever since Gaku had confessed to him, overthinking every little thing that the leader did and trying his best not to react as if he was pleased by the attention.

It was worse now that Riku and Iori knew his little secret; he had no choice but to trust that they wouldn’t blab, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still worried. And of all times to be injured, it had to be now, when they’d have the most interaction with the IDOLiSH7 members. “Help me put the ankle support back,” Tenn said instead.

“Yeah, I’m on it.”

As he watched Gaku wrap his ankle back up, Tenn couldn’t help but think, not for the first time, that it was truly strange to be treated so gently. He wasn’t used to it at all, nor did he think he could ever get used to it. Tenn thought of what Riku and Iori had advised him to do. Then, almost immediately after the thought came to mind, he shook it off. Confessing to Gaku, he thought with a mental scoff. I must be going crazy.

“I’m done,” Gaku announced, getting up from the toilet floor and dusting his pants off. “Let’s get back before the others start to question what we were talking about.”

The leader offered a hand to help Tenn up, and the younger stared at it as if it was a foreign object. A few seconds passed, both of them awkwardly waiting for the other to make a move. “I-I can walk on my own,” Tenn finally said, standing and pushing past Gaku. “Let’s go already.”

He didn’t see the way Gaku pursed his lips, dropping his outstretched hand before turning to follow after the younger. “He’s the one who rejected me,” Gaku muttered under his breath. “Why’s he the one acting all weird now?”

 

---

 

“I’m beat,” Yamato said, plopping down onto the couch and closing his eyes. “And still starving.”

“We just ate dinner,” Mitsuki reminded dryly. “What, you held back on them?”

After they’d left Zero Arena, the entire group had gone to a nearby restaurant following short debriefing of their first joint practice together. Anesagi had picked up the tab, paying with the company credit card, so the ten idols had been able to eat to their hearts’ content. That didn’t mean that they’d actually ordered everything they wanted to – it didn’t seem like it’d leave a good impression, sponging off another company like that.

Yamato raised a brow at Mitsuki. “You didn’t?”

“...yeah, I did,” Mitsuki conceded. “I’ll cook something for supper. The others can go and shower first.”

“I’ll help you, nii-san,” Iori offered, already going over to the kitchen and picking up the spare apron. He looked over at Riku, smiling when the alpha met his gaze. It felt really good to finally clear the air, to talk everything out and get rid of the weird atmosphere between them. For the past several weeks, Iori hadn’t been able to look at Riku without being worried about his boyfriend.

That worry had overshadowed the love and pride he usually felt for Riku, and Iori had genuinely worried for their relationship. Looking back now, those worries seemed a little ridiculous. “Nanase-san, you should go and shower first,” he told the alpha. “It’d be bad if you caught a cold.”

“I’m not that weak,” Riku chuckled. “But okay, fine, I’ll go. Everyone's okay with that, right?”

“Yeah,” the others chorused.

“We should watch the latest episode of Kokona while waiting!” Nagi suggested excitedly.

“I’ll be playi