Kis-My-Ft2, Lunatic Sunshine

Title: Lunatic Sunshine
Rating/Warnings: NC-17 for sex, het
Summary: Taipi’s life is hard for 50k words because Kitayama is stuck in his band…and is a girl.
AN: I wrote this for NaNoWriMo 2012. I wanted it to be super low-pressure since last year kind of sucked, and so I decided to do it with fanfiction.

Anyway, while we were watching Ikemen Desu ne at Drama Night, my mother bitched the entire time that she didn’t see why they just didn’t have Miko being a girl, no matter how many times i explained they work for a male-only agency omg. So eventually I came up with this idea, where Taipi’s life is hard for 50k because Kitayama is stuck in his band…and is a girl. The chapter names are episode titles from Ikemen.

Lunatic Sunshine

Chapter 1: Newest band member is a girl? Start of a four-sided relationship.

“Taisuke,” Yokoo Wataru said, using the measured, calm voice that meant he was holding tightly to the last thread of his patience, “if you don’t stop whining right now, I am going to stop this car and throw you off the bridge, and tell the president that you jumped.”

“I’m not whining,” Fujigaya protested, eyeing the dark, rushing water they were driving over. “I’m expressing my professional concerns. As manager, you should be able to tell the difference.”

Yokoo turned just long enough to give Fujigaya a bland, unimpressed look, before putting his eyes back on the road where they belonged.

Clicking his tongue, Fujigaya crossed his arms and scrunched down lower in the front seat of the van. “I just don’t see why we need a fourth member.”

“Fortunately for Sunshine’s future, it isn’t up to you.” Yokoo came to a stop at a yellow light, wrinkling his nose as the car in the lane beside him darted across the intersection just as the light turned to red. “Careless. You can feel free to take that up with the president. Didn’t get you very far last time, though.”

Fujigaya snorted.

“And anyway,” Yokoo continued as the light turned green and he eased forward, “now that we’re on the way to meet this supposed fourth member, it seems a bit late to try and throw a temper tantrum about it.”

“It’s not a tantrum!” Fujigaya sat up straighter. “Watta, you always make me sound like a child! This is my whole career we’re talking about here, and it isn’t just mine either. Tama and Ken-chan both aren’t exactly thrilled about it either.”

“Yes, but the difference is that they’re willing to meet this person before rejecting him outright.” Yokoo slid neatly into a parking space, the lines evenly spaced on either side of him. “Speaking of Tama and Ken-chan, I think they’re right behind us.”

“What?” Fujigaya twisted around to see. “Tama’s not driving, is he? He’s a complete menace, I don’t even know how he got that certification.”

“He’s getting better,” Yokoo soothed, unbuckling himself, but he stopped trying to defend Tamamori’s driving when he tried to open his door and nearly banged it right into Tamamori’s sleek little sports car, parked way too close. He just rolled his eyes as Senga got his door open just enough to wiggle out of the car and out of the way, mouthing, “Hi, Yokoo-san!” on the way by.

Tamamori was stretching on the other side of his car when Fujigaya came around, rock-style T-shirt riding up to show a pale stripe of skin above his distressed jeans. He’d decided to dye his hair back to natural black and cut it short enough to show off his line of piercings, and Fujigaya had to admit that his position as hot frontman for Sunshine would be in some danger right now if Tamamori weren’t necessarily trapped behind his drums whenever Sunshine performed.

Senga, as if trying to balance Tamamori out, had bleached his hair even lighter than usual, perm so newly redone that Fujigaya could still smell the salon product in it when he got within a meter of the group’s baby.

“Aren’t you ever going to stop doing that to your hair?” Fujigaya asked, reaching over to tug one of Senga’s orange curls and letting it spring black. “Ken-chan, you’re twenty-two. You can have a grown-up haircut now, I promise.”

“Shush, Taipi. ” Senga shrugged him off easily, bright smile not even dimming. “You should have come with us, they could have done something with that business you have going on up there.”

“No deal.” Fujigaya put a hand up to his own hair, loose waves held back in a messy ponytail for the moment, barely long enough so that bits of it were escaping all over. “At least one of us has to look like a sexy idol.”

Senga and Tamamori exchanged knowing glances and shook their heads sadly. Fujigaya narrowed his eyes at them.

“All right, you can argue about hair care inside, ladies,” Yokoo told them, making shooing motions towards the door.

Senga chattered away happily at Tamamori as they walked into their agency’s building and across the glassed-in lobby, but Fujigaya was only half-listening. He was preoccupied with his own thoughts, shooting an occasional glance at Yokoo behind them, tapping away on his iPhone and wearing his Manager-san expression. It wasn’t until they got into the elevator that Fujigaya turned to Yokoo.

“Seriously,” he said, voice low enough not to attract the attention of the other two, “I know we’ve got some problems, but isn’t a fourth member just going to cause a bunch more that we haven’t even thought of yet?”

Yokoo heaved a quiet sigh and dragged his eyes up from his phone to look Fujigaya in the eye for a moment before answering. “Just try, Taisuke. For me. Ken-chan and Tama had to earn your trust at the beginning too, and that was for the best, wasn’t it?”

Fujigaya turned and found both Senga and Tamamori grinning at him.

“You looooove us,” Senga said slyly, elbowing Tamamori, “right?”

“Idiots,” Fujigaya grumbled, sticking his hands in his pockets. “I should have gone solo like I wanted.”

“And then you would have burned out in six months, just like I told you, instead of having a band to force you to take care of yourself,” Yokoo said, going back to the phone. “Trust me. Given my track record with your well-being, I think I’ve earned that much from you.”

“Che,” Fujigaya answered, but he gave up arguing and just watched the numbers click over for the rest of the elevator ride. He tried willing them to slow down with the power of his mind, but it had no effect other than Tamamori warning him about frown lines.

When they came into President Domoto’s office, the plush carpet muffling the clicking of their boots, he wasn’t alone. There was a woman standing next to his desk, short but cute enough, if you were into that sort of thing, Fujigaya supposed. She had a pert nose and a trendy little bob haircut, and she looked a bit older than the president usually went for, maybe even as old as Tamamori, but maybe she’d have enough sense to last longer than the president’s last assistant.

“Good morning, gentlemen.” The president beamed at them, looked pleased as they filed in and all gave him reasonably polite bows. “Sit, sit! We were just discussing your new member, and I think you’re going to be very pleased. Kitayama-san is looking forward to meeting you.”

“Kitayama-san?” Senga tilted his head as he took his seat on one side of Fujigaya. “Ah, that sounds cool!”

“You’d think it was cool if he said Ultraman was joining,” Fujigaya said, ignoring Yokoo’s warning look. Senga’s eyes actually sparkled as he thought about that. Fujigaya turned to Tamamori on his other side to see what his reaction to all of this was, only to find Tamamori’s attention absorbed by the large, leafy plant on the low table next to him.

“Kitayama-san comes very highly recommended,” the president continued. “I know integrating a new member at this point will take some time, but I’m confident that once you’ve all adjusted, you’ll get along famously.”

“Yes, well,” Fujigaya pinched Tamamori’s thigh, making him squeak. “I’m sure we’d get on much better if Kitayama-san were punctual. Any idea when he’ll be arriving?”

The president exchanged a bemused look with the woman who was leaning against the desk, and then she turned back to look Fujigaya in the eye, lifting a hand to wave a few fingers at him.

“Nice to meet you,” she said. “I’m Kitayama Hiromi.”

A tense moment of silence followed where Senga’s jaw dangled and Fujigaya’s mouth worked but no actual words came out. It was only broken when Tamamori finally said, “Um…but you’re a girl?”

“Are you sure your fans will even notice?” Kitayama asked, eyeing Fujigaya’s hair, and that was the last straw.

Ignoring Kitayama completely, Fujigaya turned to President Domoto. “You cannot be serious.”

“Taisuke,” Yokoo warned, not that Fujigaya paid him any mind.

“I mean, what are we going to do, just pretend she’s a guy?” Fujigaya demanded, getting himself good and worked up, cheeks starting to flush. “Like we’re in some trashy drama remake?!”

“No way, pal,” Kitayama answered, crossing her arms. “You hired a female, and that’s what you’re getting, those were my conditions.”

“This is an all-male agency! What is she even doing here?!”

“Kitayama-san wrote the lyrics to your last three releases,” the president finally answered, looking at Fujigaya evenly. His calm smile only served to rile Fujigaya up more. “You can hardly argue that you don’t need a lyricist. And she plays the guitar, which will free you up to focus on your vocals.”

“Ooh, thank goodness,” Senga sighed with relief, eyes sparkling at the idea of never having to reteach Fujigaya chords ever again. Fujigaya glared at him, and he shut his mouth.

“You can sing, though, right?” Tamamori asked, eyeing Fujigaya nervously, no doubt remembering any number of very unpleasant practices before his own voice had come up to Fujigaya’s standards.

“Of course I can,” Kitayama shrugged Tamamori off easily. “I’ve been doing side work doubling for live performances since my agency wasn’t keeping me busy. Never worked for you guys, though.”

“Clearly,” Fujigaya snapped, irritated at even the hint that Sunshine would ever need the vocal help performing live.

“Is that why you left?” Senga asked, leaning forward and obviously getting interested.

Kitayama’s smile turned wry. “I don’t plan on spending my career hiding in tech booths and teaching trainees how to hiproll in heels. Let’s just say we had a difference of opinion about how I could best be utilized.”

“You mean you were too old to debut, so you quit,” Fujigaya said. He turned back to President Domoto, trying his best to pretend Kitayama wasn’t even there. “I mean, really, first you tell us we need a fourth member, and now you bring us some middle-aged almost-was from the girl agency across the street? What am I even supposed to do about this?”

“Is he always like this?” Kitayama leaned over to ask Tamamori. Tamamori nodded, sighing through his nose a little.

“Oh, Fujigaya-kun,” President Domoto smiled a thin, amused smile. “It’s a good thing you’re so cute when you get so serious about the welfare of your band. Otherwise I might think you were questioning my decisions as company president.”

Fujigaya shut his mouth with a snap, cheeks turning a bit pink. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Yokoo giving him the so far over the line expression, and dropped his eyes to the carpet with a scowl. “Of course not, president. But how can I not worry? the three of us have been working our asses off for three years, pouring all our energy into Sunshine, how can somebody new understand that? No matter his…her talents are.”

“Our fans are going to freak out,” Tamamori spoke up, nibbling on his lower lip. He’d been on the business end of a nasty scandal last year where a certain tabloid had published pictures of him and a drama co-star several times.

A group of Tamamori’s fans had gotten mean enough that they had to begin screening extras during filming after one girl had gone after the actress’s hair with a pair of scissors she had hidden in her purse. The actress had taken it with good graces and insisted both to Tamamori and publicly that she didn’t blame Tamamori at all, but it had still been an ugly situation, and Yokoo-san had quietly turned down several drama offers for Tamamori afterwards.

“Fans nothing,” Senga said in an undertone, “Nika-chan is going to murder me.” He grunted when Yokoo elbowed him.

“I do understand your concerns,” the president said, more to Tamamori than Fujigaya, a glimmer of sympathy coming through his expression finally. “I just have a certain feeling about Kitayama-san. It might take a little time, but I think our fans will come to see her as an asset rather than a rival much faster than you would believe right now.”

“Or they’ll come up on stage and kill us,” Tamamori muttered. “Nice knowing you, plant-san.”

“Well,” the president clapped his hand together, clearly calling the meeting to an end, “now that we’ve all been introduced, I’m sure the four of you have plenty of work to be attending to. Yokoo-san, you have the schedule?” Yokoo held up his phone, nodding. “Excellent, then I’ll send you on your way.”

Out in the hallway, they stood in an awkward three-sided knot, Senga and Tamamori edging nearer to Yokoo, away from Fujigaya’s thundercloud scowl, Kitayama standing on her own, projecting a casual air as if that didn’t bother her in the least.

“So I understand you guys all live together,” she said, a smile playing about the edge of her mouth. “Or at least, that’s what the fanfiction says.”

“Oh, they do,” Yokoo confirmed, and his quiet amusement made Fujigaya’s hackles rise even more than Kitayama’s little poke. “President didn’t think it was projecting the right image that his hot twenty-something idols were all living with their mother’s still.”

Expecting a snide comment from Kitayama, Fujigaya was caught a bit flat-footed when Kitayama only shrugged and said she didn’t see what the big deal is, she was living with her mom right now and she was twenty-six.

“Really?” Senga asked, peering at her more closely, and his expression said he was re-evaluating the gap between them.

“Sure, it’s been just her and me since my dad left.” Kitayama’s smirk turned mischievous. “You might say I’ve been the man of the house.” Senga laughed, and Tamamori smiled just a little.

“So I guess we should be calling you senpai,” Tamamori said, scratching his nose.

“I wouldn’t stop you,” Kitayama answered.

“No, you should not! She’s been here thirty seconds, both of you are her senpai thirty times over! Ugh, seriously?” Fujigaya turns to Yokoo plaintively, ignoring his idiot bandmates’ defection. “Watta–”

“That’s enough of that.” Yokoo gave Fujigaya a pointed look. “Kitayama-san will be moving into the spare room tomorrow, so if anybody is storing any of their junk in there, I suggest it be out before I bring her by tomorrow.”

All three of the current house residents shuffled their feet a little under Yokoo’s knowing gaze.

“There’ll be a live next week to introduce Kitayama-san officially,” Yokoo continued, scrolling through the calendar on his phone quickly with his thumb. “It’s been announced through the website that a fourth member will be joining Sunshine, but no other details. No messing with the fangirls on the website!” He warned.

“Aw, come on,” Senga whined. “It’s so easy!”

“He uploaded a video of me in the shower this morning,” Tamamori tattled while they were on the topic. Senga pouted at him. “I think it has more hits than Taipi’s introduction video.”

“Take it down,” Yokoo ordered, getting another little whine from Senga. “Kitayama-san, you should go home and get yourself packed up, get a good night’s rest. Be ready to work starting tomorrow; our Taisuke’s a bit of a slave-driver.”

“Damn straight,” Fujigaya chose to take that as a compliment. Kitayama only nodded.

“Good to meet you all.” She bobbed her head at them in a casual bow. “Let’s work hard together and all that.” Kitayama turned to go, and in spite of himself, Fujigaya had to admit as she walked away, that she’d been hiding her best asset behind her the whole time.

“Our fans are going to kill us,” Tamamori sighed, resigned, and as if on cue, Senga’s phone trilled in his pocket.

“Sorry,” he said, sheepish as he pulled the phone out of his pocket and started typing back a reply. Nobody even commented, knowing that if Senga didn’t answer, he’d only be on the butt end of a series of increasingly frequent mails.

“Don’t tell her about Kitayama-san in a mail,” Yokoo advised. “I’ve got enough problems without having to spin you getting a black eye to the press. The three of you are scheduled to practice this afternoon. Not that you don’t have things to get done,” Yokoo offered them a sympathetic smile, “but let’s just say I won’t be checking on you. Busy setting up the new and improved Sunshine’s debut live and all that.”

Practice that afternoon was indeed sort of a lost cause. Tamamori was too distracted to keep a steady beat, not a good thing for a drummer, and Senga had turned switched his phone to vibrate, but that just meant he jumped every time it went off in his pocket.

Not that it stopped him from growling at them, but Fujigaya was hardly much better. There were a few lines in the new song they were working on that he wasn’t entirely happy with, but he couldn’t put his finger on the problem. After several days of being unable to fix the lines to his satisfaction, it was driving him absolutely crazy.

“Look, Taipi,” Senga tried to soothe after they’d stopped in the same spot three times in a row, “why don’t we just forget about the vocals and practice the rest of it? You can focus more on the guitar that way anyway.”

Tamamori held up a drumstick like he was in class asking to be called on. “Won’t Kitayama-san be doing the guitar anyway?” Fujigaya’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Tama!” Senga hissed, then went “Eep!” as his phone went off again.

“Give me that right now!” Fujigaya snapped, holding out his hand, and Senga sheepishly handed over his phone. “You too!” he ordered Tamamori, reaching into his own pocket for his own phone, on Manner Mode like a proper adult’s should be at work. He dropped all three phones into his guitar case and flipped the lid shut with his foot. Someone’s, probably Senga’s, made a dull buzzing noise, but it was muted by the closed case. “There! Now can we please get something done without being interrupted every two seconds?!”

“You’re the one who keeps interrupting us though,” Tamamori pointed out, before Fujigaya swung his glare back Tamamori’s way. Tamamori suddenly was very interested in the height of his crash cymbal.

Unfortunately Tamamori was actually right, and locking up their phones had nothing to do with the lines Fujigaya wasn’t satisfied with. After a few more tries, Fujigaya gave in with a sigh. “This isn’t getting any better. It’s this melody line, though, you two are fine, so if you want to–”

The door to the practice room swung open at that moment, the crash making all of them jump. In the doorway was a very angry Nikaido Takako, short haircut seeming to bristle even more than usual in the back to match her furious expression.

“Nika!” Senga hopped up, holding his bass like he wasn’t sure it was going to be enough protection from his girlfriend.

“Why aren’t you answering your mails?!” She demanded, arms crossed, hip cocked confrontationally under her teal mini-skirt.

“Because he’s at practice, obviously,” Fujigaya said icily, wondering if Nikaido tried on purpose to make her wardrobe as loud as her voice, or if it was just an unfortunate side effect of sleeping regularly with Senga.

Nikaido wasn’t fazed by Fujigaya’s glare or tone in the slightest. She held up her phone, the Sunshine charm from last tour (blue, Ken-chan version, obviously) clicking against the back of her case. “What’s this shit about you getting a girl in your band?”

“How do you know that?!” Tamamori asked in alarm, glancing side-to-side like he was expecting angry fangirls to be hiding in the corners of the practice room.

“Takki-san just mailed the costuming staff that he’s going to need someone for a special project to alter some costumes for the fourth member.” Nikaido cracked a knuckle. “Admit it, you’ve got some hot, young floozy joining you, don’t you?”

“Kitayama-san isn’t a floozy!” Senga protested, then backpedaled right away when Nikaido’s expression turned nuclear. “Its not like we picked her! The president did! Nika, don’t be mad, come on!”

“She’s not even moving in until tomorrow,” Tamamori put in, trying to be helpful. Senga hissed a panicked, “Tama!” at the same time Nikaido hollered a “WHAT?!” and then Fujigaya threw them all out of the room because he just couldn’t take any of it one second longer, slamming the door shut behind them.

There was one second of blissful peace.

“Taipi,” Senga called, barely audible through the practice room door. “Can I have my phone back? Please?”

Rubbing at his temple with one hand, Fujigaya got out his own phone and sent a mail of his own, because there was only one person to call when things couldn’t possibly get any more ridiculous.

The club was packed when Fujigaya arrived, the line stretching around the block, but Fujigaya gave the door bouncer a nod, pushing back his hat so that he could get a clear look at Fujigaya’s face. Several girls near the front of the waiting line made high-pitched noises, but Fujigaya ignored them as he pulled his hat back down and strolled inside.

Kawai was already waving from the VIP section by the time Fujigaya got close, and some of the tension in his shoulders loosened at the sight of his best friend. Kawai’s wide grin never changed no matter how old they got, and for some reason on top of his poof of bleached curls was perched a headband with two sproingy hearts.

“What is that?” Fujigaya asked, stripping off his jacket and throwing it down on the low couch next to Kawai. He reached down to flick at one of Kawai’s hearts, making it sproing back and forth.

“Fan gift,” Kawai laughed, reaching up to flick at the other one. “Hasshi-chan’s idea. She handed them out to half the audience at our last show. When they all bounce in unison, it’s hilarious.”

Kawai’s laugh was just as loud and ugly as it had been when they were thirteen, and Fujigaya couldn’t help but laugh with him, as always. He plopped himself down on the low couch and picked up the drink Kawai slide towards him, draining half of it at once. It burned on the way down, and Fujigaya sighed in relief as warmth started working on the rest of his tightly-coiled nerves. “Thanks.”

“Drink up, I already ordered a second round,” Kawai assured. “Your message definitely sounded like it was going to be a three-drink minimum night.” He clicked his own drink, lime green to Fujigaya’s hot pink, then slid closer, grin conspiratorial. “Sooo, new member, huh? Your website manager slipped up and added a link to the profile early, even though it doesn’t go anywhere yet. So when do I meet this Hiro-kun, and more importantly, how long will it take him to bump you to second hottest member?”

“Hardly,” Fujigaya snorted, downing the rest of his drink and willing the next round to hurry up. “Hiro is short for Hiromi.”

Kawai was actually struck speechless for a minute, which only confirmed Fujigaya’s sense of how screwed he was, and then Kawai laughed so hard he curled up on a little ball on the couch.

“It’s not funny,” Fujigaya said, setting his glass down hard enough that the ice clinked. “Our fans are going to kill us and we’re going to all get fired. I guess I should quit wasting my time trying to write Sunshine’s third album.”

“Aw, it’s not so bad,” Kawai said, but he was still giggling as he picked himself up. “Crazy Accel has girls sometimes, it’s no big deal.”

“Because you’re an indie group!” Fujigaya protested. “Nobody cares what you do! Your fans get excited if you play a club where their heels don’t get stuck to the floor if they stand in one place longer than a minute.”

“It’s true,” Kawai shrugged. “You can come and join us anytime, Taipi. Leave your high-pressure agency behind. Want to be in the same unit again?”

“Not on your life,” Fujigaya said, but he laughed. It was hard to imagine what Kawai would even be like as a Domoto’s talent now; he never had been good at the high-pressure aspects of it, had never had a face quite attractive enough to go with his voice as far as management had been concerned. As the frontman of Crazy Accel, Kawai still got to sing and dance all he wanted, and if they were underfunded and played clubs that Fujigaya wouldn’t set foot in, at least they got to write all their own songs and date who they pleased.

It had always been like that; Fujigaya looked best done up and photographed for a CD cover, and Kawai looked best on stage, curls soaked to his head with sweat and laughing so hard you couldn’t even see his eyes.

“Ah, what’s the president even thinking?” Fujigaya whined, scrunching down so that he could lean his head back on the back of the couch.

“Are you going to pretend she’s a boy?” Kawai asked, sounding interested enough that Fujigaya wrinkled his nose at him. “What? That’s hot. And reverse traps are trendy, you know.”

“I tried suggesting that, but Watta told me I wasn’t in some Korean drama.” Fujigaya heaved a sigh, trying to dislodge the heaviness that had settled in his chest. “They said we’re just going to go for it. It’s like being slapped in the face, you know? All this work I’ve put into Sunshine, and not only is it not good enough, we’re missing something bad enough that we need a fourth member, but this…” Fujigaya turned his head to ask Kawai the question he hadn’t trusted anyone else enough to ask. “Do you think they’re setting us up to fail on purpose?”

“Don’t be like that,” Kawai said, reaching over to squeeze Fujigaya’s shoulder. “Getting new members doesn’t mean everything you did before was useless. The three of you are kind of in a rut right now, and if you don’t make any changes, you’re just going to keep digging it deeper and deeper. She’s talented, right? Domoto may like to be shocking, but he can’t stand a useless pretty face.”

“I haven’t heard her yet, but she said she’s worked as a doubler, so her voice must be worth something, I guess. And supposedly she plays guitar and wrote the lyrics for our last three releases.” Fujigaya set his jaw. “I won’t let just anybody sing my songs! I don’t care what the president says.”

“Stubborn as always,” Kawai chuckled, crossing his arms and looking thoughtful. “A girl in Domoto’s, huh? I know girl agencies are tough, but I wonder if any girl’s tough enough for yours…you’ve met her, right? What do you think?”

“She’s just some girl,” Fujigaya shrugged, sitting up and looking idly over the divider at the edge of the VIP section, down at the crowd dancing below. It was a sea of bodies rolling in time with the techno song making the floor thump under Fujigaya’s feet, their faces blurred by motion and the pulse of the neon lights as they lit up different parts of the crowd in yellow, blue, pink, and green. “She’s…fuck,” he said as one of the bodies resolved itself into a familiar figure.

Kitayama Hiromi was right in the thick of the dance floor, arms up and rolling her hips, eyes closed and playing not the slightest attention to any of the guys, or girls, trying to ease into her personal space.

“No way,” Kawai leaned forward to see, reading Fujigaya’s face easily. “She’s here? Which one, which one? Short hair or long?”

“Short.” Fujigaya just gave in. The whole universe was clearly against him, and fighting was hard. “Red tank, gold bangles on her wrist, right from the DJ booth.”

“Right from the…ah!” Kawai whistled appreciatively. “Damn, your fangirls are going to kill you. Look at her move.”

Fujigaya stood and strode out of the section, ignoring Kawai calling his name behind him. He went down the stairs and down to the main level, moving with single-minded purpose. The crowd parted naturally for him despite the crowd, until he was right beside Kitayama. Her eyes were still closed, but they popped open when Fujigaya reached up to grab her wrist.

“Hey, fucker, why don’t you–Fujigaya-kun?” she asked when she saw who it was. “What are you–hey!”

Fujigaya didn’t answer, just turned and marched off the dance floor as easily as he’d marched onto it, dragging Kitayama behind him. There was a hallway hidden by a curtain just off the bar, he remembered from Accel playing this club last year, and he pulled Kitayama through it. When the curtain swung shut behind them, it muffled enough of the noise that they could at least hear each other without shouting.

“What’s that about?” Kitayama demanded, yanking her wrist free and crossing her arms to glare. Her short hair was spiked up with sweat, bare arms dusted with body glitter, skirt hiked high enough to make Fujigaya click his tongue. Just like the girls he went out of his way to avoid at clubs like this, the kind who didn’t care who found them and bought them drinks and took them home, and he didn’t know why he’d expected any better.

“What are you doing here?” Fujigaya demanded. “Are you trying to cause a scandal before you even perform once? Do you know what’ll happen to Sunshine if you get photographed here?”

“You’re here,” Kitayama challenged. “And you just grabbed a girl and dragged her into a back hallway.”

“I could see the whole way down your shirt from the VIP section!” Fujigaya snapped, Kitayama’s words getting right under his skin since they were entirely true. “Actually, I still can.”

“A short joke, how cute.” Kitayama rolled her eyes. “Enjoying the view?” She flicked her eyes down to Fujigaya’s tight jeans, then back up, smirking. “Seems like you are.”

“I don’t put up with image problems in my group,” Fujigaya said, ignoring the jab to put the conversation back on track. “And this–” he waved a hand from Kitayama’s glittery shoulders down to her bare thighs, “–is not Sunshine’s image!”

“Yeah? Then I guess I’ve been hired to give your image an update, don’t you think?” Kitayama shrugged, and the more unconcerned she seemed, the more Fujigaya felt his grip on his temper slip. She leaned in a little closer, and Fujigaya could smell her perfume, sweet and a little fruity, the smell of her sweat-slicked skin underneath. “What’s the matter, Fujigaya-kun? Scared of just one little girl at a club?”

“Fuck you,” Fujigaya managed, trying to back up, but the narrow hallway meant his shoulders were already against the wall. He could feel the warmth of her skin through his shirt, the swell of her breasts brushing teasingly against his chest.

Kitayama just smirked, leaning in even closer, until Fujigaya could see the red tips of her false eyelashes. “Not on the first date, sorry. I’m not that kind of girl.” And then she stretched up on her toes and kissed Fujigaya square on the mouth.

He was so shocked he didn’t even fight as she pressed him up against the wall, eyes wide open even though hers had fluttered shut. After a few seconds she broke the kiss and stepped back, eyeing Fujigaya with an amused smile. Fujigaya’s lips were still tingling from the force of it, and when he licked at his lower lip, it tasted of strawberry gloss.

“Hm. See you tomorrow, Fujigaya-kun,” she said, waving sparkly-tipped fingers at him, and then she slipped back out the curtain they had come through, hips swaying under her skirt.

Fujigaya drew in a shuddering breath, shoulders still touching the wall where Kitayama had pressed them. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, a few seconds’ work because of the tightness of his jeans, and sent a mail to Kawai that he was going home, he’d had enough.

On the way out, he kept his eyes straight ahead, not wanting to see whether Kitayama was out on the dance floor still or not.

2) Too painful kiss

The next morning, Fujigaya woke up with his head pounding like he’d had half a dozen drinks instead of just two, and he vowed to never let Kawai order for him blind ever again. He crawled into the shower and tried to wash away the night before along with the headache.

All it really did was spread the strange feeling in his lips down over the rest of his skin as the image of Kitayama in the hallway, all body glitter and too-warm skin, rose unbidden to the front of Fujigaya’s mind.

He scrubbed harder.

When he felt maybe halfway human, Fujigaya tugged on jeans and a shirt, and went out into the kitchen to see if he could at least get some coffee before Yokoo showed up with the floozy, as Nikaido had so elegantly put it. Senga and Tamamori were already in the kitchen, Senga drinking tea, and when Senga spotted Fujigaya, he pushed another mug towards him and held up the teapot hopefully.

Fujigaya just eyed him. “Are you kidding me?”

“You drink too much caffeine,” Senga sighed, turning back to his own tea. “It’s why you’re so high-strung all the time.”

“Maybe I’m high-strung because you people are trying to constantly drive me to the brink of insanity?” Fujigaya suggested as he spooned sugar into his cup and stirred it. He tasted it and wrinkled his nose, then went back to spooning. “When’s she coming?”

“Yokoo-san brought her already,” Tamamori said, nibbling a piece of toast. He pointed out the sliding glass doors to their backyard, where Yokoo had his back to them and was talking on his phone. “She’s putting her stuff in her room.”

“Terrific,” Fujigaya sighed. He waited for inevitable teasing about the night before, but Senga and Tamamori just went on eating. Maybe it wasn’t too much to hope that Kitayama had at least a modicum of decency and would keep that incident to herself.

Yokoo came back in at that moment, taking one look at Fujigaya before suggesting he drink a little coffee with his sugar. “Kitayama-san all settled?”

“You don’t have to keep calling me that,” Kitayama said from behind them. Fujigaya was afraid to even see what she was dressed in this morning, but when he turned around she was in a perfectly serviceable pair of jeans and a black T-shirt that hung loosely on her thin frame, advertising some band or other that Fujigaya had never heard of. “We’re in the same band now, after all.”

“Kita-chan?” Senga tried, but he wrinkled his nose. “Hiromi-chan?”

“Just Hiro, actually,” Kitayama said, shrugging. “Or Hiro-chan, if you prefer.”

“Oh,” Tamamori looked puzzled. “That’s…”

“Of course.” Fujigaya pursed his lips, because of course even her name couldn’t be properly feminine. Yokoo shot him a warning look, and Fujigaya went back to slurping his coffee and trying to pretend he had a nice, private one-bedroom apartment and all these nuts were just figments of his imagination. “That’s what it says on the website, by the way. Nice job keeping that under wraps, Watta.”

Yokoo frowned and looked back down at his phone, thumbing around with a little more urgency than usual.

“I like it,” Senga said, as if it were all decided. “Nice to meet you, Hiro-chan. You should call me Ken-chan. And that’s just Tama.”

“Just Tama?” Tamamori asked. He kicked at the rungs of Senga’s stool, making his tea slosh. “Watch it, brat.”

“Okay,” Kitayama agreed. She looked over at Fujigaya, still standing in front of the coffee. “Can I have some of that?” Fujigaya shrugged and stepped out of the way, trying not to look like he was running away as he edged around the counter in the opposite direction to take the third stool next to Senga. Kitayama brought the pot to the counter to pour into a mug, then paused, pushing up onto her toes. “Is this counter heart-shaped?”

“It is, it is!” Senga laughed. He elbowed Tamamori good-naturedly. “It took Tama-chan a whole month to figure that out.”

Tamamori clicked his tongue. “Who cares about the shape of the counter? You still can’t turn on the television by yourself.”

“Because there’s like fifteen remotes and they all do something different!”

“Gentlemen,” Yokoo called for their attention, rolling his eyes. “And lady, I suppose. In case you wanted to know your schedule…”

“Ooh, live right?” Senga swiveled his stool to give Yokoo his full attention. He was always most excited about live performances, not suffering from either Tamamori’s nerves or Fujigaya’s need to micromanage.

“Friday.” Yokoo nodded. “You have three days to prepare. Taisuke, I trust the new song is ready?”

“Uh-huh,” Fujigaya said into his coffee. Senga and Tamamori both gave him skeptical looks. He corrected himself, “It’ll be ready, don’t worry.”

“Today has the easiest schedule,” Yokoo went on to explain. “There’s only a photoshoot in the afternoon, so you can use the morning to practice, and then go back to it this evening if you need to. Tomorrow we’ll meet with the costuming staff, and then Yara-san to finalize staging.” He paused when Senga let out a high-pitched noise of excitement at the mention of his favorite senpai. “Thursday we have the venue for dress rehearsal and tech, and then Friday afternoon is final run-through. Show at six, press conference after. We thought about a handshake event, but…well, under the circumstances, I didn’t think it was wise until we had a better grip on fan reaction. We don’t want Tamamori to sprain his wrist again.”

Senga, who liked handshake events almost as much as lives, gave Tamamori a sad look, shaking his head.

“My fans are strong women, okay?!” Tamamori protested, one hand curling protectively against the wrist in question.

When they climbed out of the van at the practice studio, Fujigaya looked up and saw, to his surprise, that they had already added a fourth banner on the side of the building for Kitayama next to Sunshine’s usual three for himself, Tamamori, and Senga. Theirs read Taisuke, Ken, and Tama in their member colors of pink, blue, and yellow respectively; the new banner read Hiro in red.

“Your member color is red?” Senga asked, and Fujigaya rolled his eyes at Senga’s targeting of the least important thing. “That’s weird, you’d think they’d make you green or purple or something.”

“Red for leader,” Kityama said, voice teasing, and Fujigaya only spared her half a narrow glance before turning to Yokoo.

“You know that poster makes her look like a guy,” he said, and indeed it did. It was a close-up face shot that did match the rest of them, only Kitayama’s hair was half in her eyes and the only make-up she was wearing was a dark smudging of eye-shadow. Coupled with the name and the context of the other three posters, there was no way anybody looking at it wouldn’t assume Hiro was entirely as masculine as the rest of Sunshine. “Our fans are actually going to freak the fuck out if they think we’re tricking them on purpose.”

“Not my decision,” Yokoo said, voice tight. “You know how the president likes matched sets.” Both of them turned to look at Kitayama, who kind of matched the others in real life even. The bag slung over her shoulder could just as easily be any of theirs, and with her oversize jacket on and her hat pulled low over her eyes, a fangirl would have to be pretty close to pick out which one of these things was not like the others.

“Maybe we should just pretend you’re a guy,” Senga commented, eyeing the banner, clearly impressed.

“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Tamamori said, voice plaintive.

“Not my thing~,” Kitayama said easily, although she didn’t seem offended. “But thanks.”

They spent morning practice re-splitting some of the vocals and the guitar accompaniment in the older Sunshine songs that they would be performing at the live. Senga and Tamamori kept looking back and forth from Kitayama to Fujigaya nervously at first, but Kitayama was a quick study and even Fujigaya couldn’t find too much to be a hardass about.

“Fast!” Tamamori said when they only needed two run-throughs of “Summer na Kiss,” their debut single, to sort it all out. It wasn’t a compliment, though; in Tamamori’s voice it was more of a whine that he had taken about four hundred tries to learn the same song, Fujigaya riding his ass the entire time.

“I did practice beforehand, you know,” Kitayama said, reaching up re-barrette her bangs where short pieces were escaping and falling into her eyes. “It’s not like I’m just here to cause a bunch of problems.”

“Could have fooled us,” Fujigaya grumbled, only half paying attention as he scribbled down notes to himself. Kitayama’s eye twitched, but she closed her eyes a second as if adjusting her grip on her temper. When she re-opened them, her eyes were earnest, not a trace of sarcasm or sulk.

“I mean it,” she said. “I want this to work. For me, there’s no plan b, you know? If this falls through, it’s not like I can go back to my old agency.” She changed the subject, shrugging a shoulder towards Fujigaya’s guitar. “Are you going to still play that? Since it’s not like you have to, anymore.”

“I’d rather, for now,” Fujigaya said, looking down at the guitar in his lap like it was an unruly pet that he couldn’t trust anyone else to baby-sit. “I won’t know what to do with my hands otherwise, and I’m nervous enough.”

“Won’t it be a problem if both of you play the same thing, though?” Senga asked, frowning. “It’ll change all the balance.”

Fujigaya shrugged. “We can just reduce mine to mostly chords. You can do that, right?” Fujigaya asked, making Senga groan.

“Can I try something?” Kitayama asked, making the other three look over at her. “Go through the chorus once, like you normally do.”

Shrugging, Fujigaya counted them off and led them in, watching Kitayama curiously. Kitayama was watching her fingers, tongue poking at her cheek in concentration, and Fujigaya almost thought it was cute before he caught himself. After half the chorus, he understood; Kitayama was adding in a line that was more harmony than anything else, so it didn’t double the lead guitar and blended more evenly between the guitar and bass, based loosely on Senga and Tamamori’s backing vocals. It was simple, but attractive, nice for a change but subtle.

“I like it,” Fujigaya admitted, the others stumbling to a stop when Fujigaya stopped singing. “It looks simple, too. Can you write down what you just did so I can learn it?”

“Yeah, I can…” Kitayama didn’t make any move to actually reach for a pencil though. She looked thoughtful. “It’s only…I don’t think we should switch, for this song at least. You should keep doing what you’re doing.”

“What?” Fujigaya made an irritated noise. “That’s the point of having you as lead guitarist, so that I don’t have to do it! I can stop focusing on two things at once!”

“Sure, but like you said, you won’t know what to do with your hands, or anything,” Kitayama pointed out. She reached up to scratch the back of her head. “You’ve done it a million times, right? Messing with your debut song is going to be more troublesome than learning new things together, you’ll just keep trying to do it the old way anyway. It’ll only be more distraction.”

Fujigaya frowned, but with only a few days until the live, that was a pretty real concern. “All right. Let’s leave it for now, then.”

“I’ll do all the hard parts on the new songs, promise.” Kitayama gave Fujigaya a wink, and Fujigaya turned back to his notes, scrunching his face up. It gave him the creeps when Kitayama tried to be all cutesy with him; he much preferred the bickering.

Senga and Tamamori didn’t seem to have much opinion about how Fujigaya and Kitayama agreed to split the parts or what they decided. It wasn’t until they were starting to get dressed for the photoshoot later that afternoon that Senga sidled up to Fujigaya and wrapped arms around his waist in a hug.

“Eh?” Fujigaya asked, wondering why Senga always waited until he was half-undressed to get all touchy, the heat of his bare skin against Fujigaya’s making him squirm.

“I’m glad you aren’t changing your part for ‘Summer na Kiss,’” he said, leaning into Fujigaya a little harder. “I don’t like the idea of it changing.”

“It isn’t like I do either,” Fujigaya answered. Before he could say any more about his thoughts on the manner, though, Senga went on with his own feelings.

“I know we have to make room for Hiro-chan,” Senga explained. “And I don’t care about splitting lines or things like that. It’s just…you remember staying up half the night in that hotel in Oita so I could teach you?”

“Yeah,” Fujigaya said. The hotel had been so seedy that Yokoo had a complex about even sleeping in the bed, the mattress lumpy under his butt as Senga patiently went over and over and over the arrangement with him, Tamamori bitching at them from the other bed to just shut up already, that he was never going to get it.

Senga never got impatient or yelled, no matter how heavy his eyes got or how many times he had to move Fujigaya’s fingers. He had only insisted that Fujigaya could do it and was going to do it just fine at their appearance the next day. That was how Senga always approached their tough situations, by just insisting that it would all work out until it finally did.

“Yes,” Fujigaya said, more firmly. “Of course I do.”

“I taught you those chords,” Senga said, digging his chin into Fujigaya’s shoulder a little. “So don’t give them away so easily!”

Fujigaya wrapped an arm around Senga’s shoulders and squeezed him briefly, the knot in his chest loosening a little. “Got it.” And then he shoved Senga on his way to put some clothes on, because the photographers liked it way too much when Senga got distracted and forgot.

Apparently no one had warned the photographer about Sunshine’s change in membership either; the look Kitayama had given him when he tried to shoo her off with the rest of the makeup girls could have peeled Senga’s nail polish off.

“Didn’t you get the notice about the increased number of pages?” Yokoo inquired, voice cool but somehow condescending all the same.

“Yes! But…” The photographer looked them over, not doing a very good job of covering up how flat-footed he’d been caught. “All right, let’s take care of group shots first, then.”

“While you figure out your shit,” Fujigaya said under his breath, making Tamamori snicker.

“Closer together, center pair!” the photographer called, and Fujigaya didn’t think anything about it until something warm and soft was squished right up against his arm. Fujigaya went tense all over, skin prickling with heat.

“What’s the matter?” Kitayama asked casually, glancing up at Fujigaya through the layers falling into her eyes. Her smirk made Fujigaya’s fists clench involuntarily. “You didn’t seem to mind them last night.”

“Last night?” Tamamori wanted to know, leaning in close enough that his question stirred the hair on the back of Fujigaya’s neck. Already tense and warm bodies pressed in on either side of him, Fujigaya struggled against it but couldn’t keep his mind from going back to the night before in the hallway at the club.

“Don’t you dare,” he hissed at Kitayama. Kitayama only shrugged, smirk still firmly in place, but she didn’t say anything else. After a second, when it was clear she wouldn’t be adding any more details, Tamamori clicked his tongue in annoyance.

“Hm,” the photographer said, “half of you are doing ‘sexy’ and half of you are doing ‘angry,’ could we please settle on one or the other as a group? Also, I think we’re going to need a few phone books for Kitayama-san to stand on,” and Fujigaya snickered when that wiped the smirk right off of Kitayama’s face.

After their first official shoot as a foursome was wrapped up, the four of them went back to the practice room to try and work on the new song, such as it was. Tamamori’s whining was predictable but still grating, and Fujigaya felt gratified when Kitayama only tossed an unimpressed look over her shoulder and Tamamori shut his mouth.

Maybe division of labor wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Fujigaya had no qualms at all about handing over the guitar part of the new song to Kitayama, and the other three worked on the instrumental while Fujigaya struggled with the vocals some more.

“Yikes,” Kitayama said in Fujigaya’s ear, making him jump. “Guess this is one of the ones I didn’t write the lyrics too, huh?”

Fujigaya gave her a frosty look.

“I guess your fans do expect that sort of thing from you, though,” she went on, as though it couldn’t be helped. “Do you think that’ll help me win them over? Or that they’ll be mad when I start fixing it…”

“Win them over,” Senga and Tamamori said in unison, and Fujigaya turned to glare at them just as fiercely.

“The lyrics aren’t the problem,” he informed Kitayama. “It’s this bit here, it’s just–”

“Wait,” Kitayama interrupted, motioning to Senga and Tamamori, “let’s do it properly. The verse, here? Or just where the chorus starts?”

“Either? Both, I don’t know,” Fujigaya sighed, slumping in his chair a second, before straightening back up to start. “Just start at the beginning, you’ll know where it is.”

Tamamori counted them in and they started the new song over, Fujigaya listening with grudging approval at how quickly Kitayama had picked up the main guitar part. Fujigaya sang along, and it was at least gratifying that Kitayama wrinkled her nose in the same spot that had been making Fujigaya wince internally every time she tried it.

“Okay, stop,” Fujigaya called, waving his hand. “You see? It’s…”

“Yeah.” Kitayama pursed her lips and strummed her way through it again, humming. She broke off in the middle, shaking her head. “Have you tried making the intervals wider? Or starting higher…”

“Tried it,” Fujigaya shook his head, tapping his pencil eraser against the sheet music like it was being annoying on purpose. “I feel like I’ve tried everything. I’m stuck. It’s performable, it’s just…it could be better, I know it.”

Kitayama took a few other runs at it, brow scrunched cutely in concentration, until Tamamori and Senga’s giggling behind her proved too much of a distraction and she broke off, shaking her head.

“Can’t put my finger on it, either,” she said, sticking her tongue out in annoyance, and Fujigaya just barely kept himself from saying that he’d hardly expected her to, since he couldn’t fix it himself.

“Let’s leave it,” Fujigaya said instead, checking his watch with a sigh. “We’ve been here long enough as it is. Better rest up while we can, before things start gearing up tomorrow.”

“Hold on, do you have a recording of just the instrumental?” Kitayama asked, making Fujigaya pause in the act of shutting his laptop, fingertips resting on the lid. “It helps me to listen on my iPod, I like to hear things over and over, and have something I can practice along with.”

“No, not yet,” Fujigaya answered, pulling his hand away from his computer.

“I’d like one, before we pack up,” Kitayama said, making Senga and Tamamori groan behind him. “Aw, what’s the matter, drumsticks too heavy for you? Poor baby.”

“Yeah, ‘cause what we need is another Taipi,” Tamamori groused. Kitayama and Fujigaya both turned in unison to give him a look, and he tried to hide behind his crash cymbals.

“Go ahead and sing the backing bits,” Kitayama said to Senga and Tamamori, before turning to check in with Fujigaya. “You’re happy with those, right? They won’t change?”

“No, they’re okay,” Fujigaya confirmed, half-distracted fiddling with equalizer slides for a moment.

They waited a moment until Fujigaya got the system set up, and then he told Tamamori to go whenever they were ready. This part of the song, at least, Fujigaya was proud of, and looking forward to playing for an audience for the first time. It was refreshing to get to just sit and listen, as well, since the vocals would be the only thing he was responsible for on stage, for this song.

After they finished, Fujigaya cued up the playback to make sure there hadn’t been any problems. Kitayama listened until she was satisfied, and then handed over her mp3 player so that Fujigaya could put the song on it right from there. She had her earbuds in before they had even left the room, flipping the hood of her hoodie up so that only the cord and some of her more wayward bits of hair were sticking out around the edges.

In the van on the way home, she leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes, not paying any attention to any of the others chattering about the upcoming live, or Fujigaya in the front seat talking with the driver about the schedule tomorrow.

“Hiro-chan is kind of serious, huh?” Tamamori said after they were nearly the whole way home and Kitayama hadn’t changed positions. His face said that he wasn’t sure that was a good thing, really.

“Actually…” Senga leaned in a bit closer, then chuckled. “I think she’s asleep. But, aw, her sleeping face is so cute, isn’t it?”

Fujigaya rolled his eyes, unimpressed, and turned to face forward again. When his brain presented him with the image of the last time he’d seen Kitayama’s face with eyes closed, lips pressed against his and tasting like strawberry, Fujigaya shook his head to clear it.

“Maybe we should show the fans that,” Tamamori suggested, still concerned about the fans’ reactions to the entire thing, and it took Fujigaya a second to realize Tamamori was talking about Kitayama’s sleeping face and not the two of them making out.

Fujigaya’s eyes were already heavy by the time he changed into his favorite leo-print pajama pants and crawled into bed, but he pulled his laptop back out anyway, determined to get a few things done, at least. He was woken up by someone pulling the laptop out of his hands, and peeled his eyes open to see Senga shaking his head at him.

“You shouldn’t leave this down in your blankets like that,” Senga scolded, wincing as he touched the bottom of the case. “This this is a thousand degrees! You’re going to set the whole house on fire.”

“What are you even doing here,” Fujigaya demanded, cranky from being woken up and scolded by the group baby on top of that. He made a grab for his computer, but it was half-hearted at best, and Senga held it up, out of reach.

“I was bringing back the shirt I borrowed.” Senga nodded to the shirt draped over the back of Fujigaya’s chair as he set the laptop down on the flat safety of the desk and connected the charger. “Now go to sleep. And quit worrying about the song, too. It sounds fine like it is.”

Fujigaya rolled over his side, and only grunted when Senga wished him sweet dreams and flipped the light off on his way out.

“You’re wrong,” he said to nobody after the door was already shut. He just knew there was a way to fix it, if only he could just figure it out already.

The next morning at the costuming meeting, a familiar face immediately presented itself, framed by hoop earrings of an alarming size and a reasonably ill-advised sweater/leggings combo.

“Nika!” Senga exclaimed, beaming happily despite the way Nikaido was brandishing her tape measure between her hands as if she was about garrote one of them. “What are you doing here?”

“Fixing your mess,” Nikaido said tersely, the way she was eyeing Kitayama saying the mess was obviously right in front of her. Kitayama folded her arms, eyebrow raised in a clear ‘bring it on.’ “Takki-senpai made me your head costumer. Now strip.”

Everyone else frowned, but Senga’s grin only got bigger.

“Hey,” Fujigaya said when they were all handed their first armload of stuff. “Why does all my stuff match hers?”

“Because you’re center symmetry, obviously,” Nikaido answered without looking up from the shirt arms she was trying to untangle. Fujigaya looked from his pile to Kitayama’s again, nose wrinkled.

“It’s not like I want to match with you either,” Kitayama pointed out, and Fujigaya was torn between wanting to argue with both Nikaido and Kitayama at the same time. Kitayama reached for the hem of her shirt, clearly planning on changing right with the rest of them, and Fujigaya turned away to focus on his own clothes, scowling.

“Eyes over here, Kenpi,” Nikaido ordered, voice icy.

Fujigaya’s demeanor did not improve when they were actually in their outfits and Kitayama’s shirt was clearly meant to be the coordinating piece to Fujigaya’s pants.

“We look like we’re on some matchy-matchy date!” he protested. Kitayama’s face was over-neutral about the whole thing.

“Better you than me,” Senga said with feeling, then tried to look big-eyed and innocent when Nikaido advanced on him with her pins.

“Or me,” Tamamori said dolefully, shifting closer to Senga as if prepared to fight anybody who tried to take away the bits of his costume that vaguely matched with Senga. Nikaido tsked that it hardly mattered since he could be naked back there behind his drums and it would take the fangirls half the concert to notice.

The the indignity was clearly not lost on their choreographer, given the grin that Yara gave them when he and Yokoo strolled into the changing area to collect them.

“Symmetry, exactly what I was thinking,” he praised Nikaido, making Fujigaya groan out loud.

“Hm,” Yokoo said to Nikaido, looking Kitayama’s ensemble over. Kitayama was dressed not much differently than the others, jacket embellished haphazardly with silver bits, silver T-shirt underneath, pants over boots. “I like how her image fits in with the others, but does it seem like we’re trying to hide the fact that she’s a girl? And doing a poor job of it.”

Something about that seemed to amuse Kitayama as much as it made Fujigaya purse his lips. Kitayama put a hand on her hip and flashed them a silly, typical girl pose while they looked her over from head to toe.

“Should I emphasize her figure more?” Nikaido asked, scratching at the back of her head as she thought, ruffling up her short hair. “We could try flares for the pants, more fitted through the hips? A low-slung belt.”

“A tank top instead of the T-shirt under the jacket,” Yokoo agreed, nodding. “Kitayama-san–”

“Hiro,” Kitayama corrected, dropping her girl pose and stretching a little.

“How do you feel about a more dramatic haircut? I’d like to dye you back to natural black, if nothing else.”

Kitayama put a hand up to her hair, almost defensively, but then set her expression more firmly and squared her shoulders. “If you think it’s best. It’s only hair.”

“Try telling Taipi that,” Tamamori murmured to Senga, and both of them laughed until Fujigaya turned their way.

Yokoo turned away to put a call into the hair stylist, and Yara grinned at them predatorily.

“My turn,” he said, making Senga beam and Fujigaya and Tamamori exchange long-suffering glances. Kitayama looked between them, eyebrow raised. “Ready, ladies?”

“Sure,” Kitayama answered, face saying she was game for anything.

“Oh,” Yara laughed, “I didn’t mean you, actually.”

Dance practice had different effects on all of them. Senga loved it more than almost anything, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, which would have been cute if it didn’t make him stand out so much from Tamamori and Fujigaya. Tamamori had been mostly trained out of his clumsiness rather than suffer Fujigaya’s wrath, but dance would never come naturally to him. He generally got by with Yara making it so he wouldn’t humiliate Sunshine, and Senga willing to practice with him at home as long as it took.

“Why do we even have to do this?” Tamamori whined, helpfully drawing Yara’s attention for long enough that Fujigaya could catch his breath. “We play instruments! We don’t need to dance! I’m the drummer! The drummer!!”

“You’d think you’d have just a little natural rhythm then, wouldn’t you?” Yara asked, making Tamamori wail in frustration. Senga just shook his head sadly.

Fujigaya looked at dance as a necessary evil for their agency and took it so seriously that Yara often complained that Fujigaya was the only person he knew who could do a dance perfectly and yet suck all the fun out of it.

To Senga’s delight, it turned out Kitayama was a quick study for dance as well, and even though it was clear she’d been trained up in an entirely different style, Yara’s expression as he looked her over was appreciative in a very different way than people had been appreciating her at the club the other night.

“Less hip and hair toss,” Yara instructed, but seemed to be having a problem keeping the amusement off his face. “Ken-chan?”

Kitayama and Senga did the last few steps side-by-side in the mirror, and Kitayama nodded that she could see the difference, but still looked dubious. “I’m not sure I…can?” She bunched her mouth up in a frown. “You know they trained me to do that at, like, sixteen, right?”

“That late, huh?” Yara asked. Kitayama nodded, not offering any explanation even when Senga and Tamamori looked at her curiously. “No problem, then, we can for sure undo that. Not by Friday, maybe, but in the end…”

“Might not need it after Friday,” Fujigaya said, not exactly meaning to say it out loud. Senga’s reproachful look went a lot further to chastise Fujigaya than Yara’s sharp look. “Sorry,” he bobbed his head. “You know what I mean.”

Kitayama shrugged it off and looked back at the mirror, apparently unconcerned.

“Maybe you should be up here instead of Ken-chan?” Yara suggested, and like the best of his punishments, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable request. “Since you and Hiro-chan are going to be symmetry from now on…”

He ran them through it a few more times, until he was minimally satisfied. Yara did stand behind Kitayama for more than one of the tries, though, hands planted on her hips and physically holding them more still. Kitayama herself didn’t seem bothered by the physical proximity or the hands-on teaching method, but Fujigaya found it getting under his skin.

He felt tense all over by the time Yara tried having the two of them actually dance together, stiff enough that Yara didn’t even get a chance to call him on it before Kitayama did.

“What’s your deal?” Kitayama asked, quitting mid-hiproll when Fujigaya’s symmetrical move actually rolled him further away from Kitayama’s side. She glanced over her shoulder, at where Yara was occupied adjusting Tamamori, then back at Fujigaya. “Not like I care, but you are making us look ridiculous. Are you just really that not into girls or what?”

“Yes,” Fujigaya said, with some vehemence. “They’re demanding and messy, and cause a bunch of drama. Tama’s girls nearly got him fired, and mine wouldn’t be any better if I gave them half a chance. I like the deal we have right now, where I’m up on a stage and can make them scream from a safe distance, and they pay money to keep me doing that.”

Unexpectedly, Kitayama burst into laughter, hard enough to draw the attention of the others. She waved them back to Tamamori’s problems, still chuckling to herself as she looked Fujigaya over again, like she was re-assessing him.

“Got it.” She grinned as she turned back to the mirror. “Good thing for you, I’m not that kind of girl.”

“You keep saying that!” Fujigaya protested, looking more closely at Kitayama in return. “Exactly what kind of girl are you?”

Kitayama just threw him a wink over her shoulder. “If you’re lucky, Tai-chan, you might find out.”

“What did you just call me?” Fujigaya demanded, voice flat, but just then Yara called for everyone’s attention, interrupting their exchange.

3) First Live Concert

The venue for their live was, in a word, tiny.

“It’s intimate,” Yokoo corrected as he shepherded them inside, Kitayama pulling down her hood to look around curiously as they came out onto the stage. Fujigaya stood beside her with his shades still on, slurping a coffee large enough that Yokoo had asked tersely whether he meant to drink it or to drown himself in it.

The pair of them were slow enough that they were nearly run over by Senga and Tamamori elbowing past them to rush out to the edge of the stage and hopping down off of it.

“Tama-chan!” called a voice from back at the soundboard, one of the techs waving wildly and with a grin big enough to be seen easily from a theater-length away. Tamamori immediately slowed his rush to an amble, like he couldn’t care less who was back there, but Senga kept jogging, outpacing him.

“Hi, Miyacchi!” Senga answered happily. “Is Tsuka-chan back there?”

“Yup, he went to check some lights, but he’ll be back in a second.” His answer made Senga cheer. Fujigaya even smiled a little, because Tsukada Ryoichi worked as a staging crew member for a day job, but was also one of the members of Crazy Accel.

“That’s Miyata Toshiya,” Yokoo introduced Miyata to Kitayama. “He’s our usual sound tech.”

“And Tama-chan’s boyfriend,” Fujigaya put in from behind them. Yokoo gave him an unimpressed look, but Fujigaya just shrugged. “What? Miyacchi’ll wear him down sooner or later.”

In fact, Miyata had abandoned his soundboard to meet Senga and Tamamori partway down the aisle. After exchanging a quick hug with Senga, Miyata immediately latched onto Tamamori, who whined but wasn’t struggling that hard as Miyata squeezed him around the waist.

“Uh-huh,” was Kitayama’s only comment. She was still looking around the venue, obviously puzzled by the size of it. “What’s with this venue?” she asked Yokoo. “I thought you guys were popular.”

“Don’t say ‘you guys’ like it doesn’t have anything to do with you,” Fujigaya said, pursing his lips.

“We ran a contest through the website for the live as a special event,” Yokoo explained, as if Fujigaya weren’t even talking behind them. “Better to test you out in front of two hundred fangirls than two thousand.”

“Two hundred girls can trample us to death just as easily,” Tamamori commented as he, Senga, and Miyata reached the front of the stage and had to scramble up onto it.

“Wow, you really do have a girl!” Miyata whistled. “I didn’t think there was any way that Kawai-kun wasn’t bullshitting us.”

“Miyacchi!” Senga scolded, dragging Miyata over by the hand to meet Kitayama properly. Tamamori, still working on climbing up, scowled. “Hiro-chan, this Miyacchi, he does our sound stuff usually.”

“Nice to meet you,” Miyata said, giving Kitayama a polite bow and a friendly smile. Kitayama smiled back, like most people did; Miyata had a way of putting everyone at ease even after they’d just met. “You’re not supposed to fanservice with Tama-chan or anything, right? Because his fans will murder you.”

“I can fanservice with anybody I want!” Tamamori announced, finally getting himself on stage and shouldering Senga away from Miyata’s side. Senga let himself be pushed over with a knowing roll of his eyes. Tamamori punched Miyata in the arm, but Miyata only grinned up at him adoringly, clearly used to the rough treatment.

“I’m just worried for your safety,” Miyata said, teasing but with a touch of earnestness underneath it. “How can we go for our ramen date tomorrow if we have to run you to the emergency room?” He reached over to touch the back of Tamamori’s wrist lightly.

“Again,” said Fujigaya.

“Who said I was going anywhere with you?” Tamamori muttered, yanking his hand away from Miyata’s. When he realized everyone was just staring at him evenly, Tamamori’s cheeks turned pink and he scuttled off to check his stage drums, with one last shove at Miyata’s shoulder for good measure.

Tsukada showed up just then, clutching an armload of extension cords, and shook hands with Kitayama while making the same comment about Kawai’s surprising lack of bullshit that Miyata had.

“Let me know if you need me to move the drums or anything else,” Tsukada said, mostly to Yokoo, running one hand through his bleached-blond hair to push it out of his face. “I just did it the usual way, but I wasn’t sure if you’d need to change the spacing with a fourth member.”

“Tsuka-chan can lift anything,” Senga informed Kitayama, grinning like he was talking about his beloved older brother. Tsukada grinned and ruffled his hair.

“Thank you, it looks good for now, but we might make some adjustments,” Yokoo said. Tsukada gave him a mock salute, and Yokoo turned to the others. “Ready? Let’s get started.”

The run-through went about as smoothly as could be expected, only small problems cropping up here or there of the usual sort to be expected when setting up in a new venue. Eventually they broke for a meal that was too late to be lunch and too early to be dinner, and Yokoo whisked Kitayama away for her appointment with the stylist that he had managed to wrangle.

When they returned, Kitayama’s hair was darker and shorter, her sleek bob from before now a mess of soft spikes, long enough to frame her face at the moment without any product in, but short enough she could gel them up into true spikes if she wanted. It looked much more like a male idol’s haircut, one that was just starting to grow out and had some versatility to it.

“Wow!” said Miyata over the loudspeaker, the first one to speak. “You are definitely not allowed to fanservice with Tama-chan.”

“Shut UP, Miyacchi!” Tamamori hollered back.

“It looks really good,” Senga assured, then laughed. “It really is a Domoto’s haircut, though. I think I might have had that one once!”

“Thanks.” Kitayama reached up to tug at one of the longer pieces hanging in her eyes, looking a bit self-conscious. She tried to tuck it behind her ear from force of habit, but it slipped right back in her eyes again. “I’ll get used to it after a few days.”

“Taisuke has plenty of barrettes, I’m sure, if you need some,” Yokoo commented, nose buried in his phone so that Fujigaya’s mutinous look was entirely lost on him.

“If you don’t mind,” Kitayama said, taking the offer at face value. Her face was bland, unteasing. Fujigaya shrugged and turned to get his bag. He was rifling through it when Kitayama continued. “Just, could they not be pink and sparkly? If that’s at all possible.”

Fujigaya threw the cardboard sleeve of clips at Kitayama’s stupid head.

Nikaido arrived at that moment with their costumes; she took one look at the new and improved Kitayama and punched Senga hard in the arm.

“Why are you hitting me?!” Senga demanded, not that he made any moves to get out of Nikaido’s reach. “How is this my fault? Go hit Yokoo-san!”

“I dare you to try it,” Yokoo said without even looking up. Nikaido looked like she was thinking about it, manager or not.

“You know, I’m starting to see why all of you are terrified of girls,” Kitayama said, and Nikaido gave her a look that plainly said ‘I’ve got my eye on you’ and shoved Kitayama’s garment bag full of costume into her hands. Kitayama eyed it distrustfully. “There’s not a corset or anything in here, is there?”

“Are you nuts?” Nikaido asked, handing over everyone else’s garment bags to their rightful owners. “I don’t want you feeling up Kenpi, but I’m not trying to get you killed. Try that stuff on so I can make any alterations I have to right away,” Nikaido ordered. She raised an eyebrow at Senga. “And you better not lose any of those pieces this time.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Senga promised, scuttling off into the back, Fujigaya and Tamamori following. Kitayama glanced after them, then started off towards the wings in the opposite direction.

“Changing area’s that way,” Nikaido said, intercepting Kitayama and spinning her around by the shoulders.

“Yeah, but I’m about to get naked.” Kitayama twisted her head to raise an eyebrow at Nikaido. “Didn’t you just get done saying–”

“This is band stuff, that’s different.” Nikaido gave Kitayama a shove in the right direction, then dusted her hands off. “Hurry up. I had to guess on your size and the flares are supposed to be as tight to your hips as possible, so don’t throw some kind of model fit if we have to go up a size.”

Fujigaya barely spared Kitayama half a glance before he went back to stripping off his own clothes, and Senga gave Kitayama a distracted smile, busy trying to free Tamamori from his surprisingly stubborn sweater. Kitayama hooked the garment back on the rack next to the others’ and shrugged off her hoodie.

Fujigaya tried not to watch, but he kept catch glances out of the corner of his eye of Kitayama’s pale skin as she tugged her T-shirt off, the black lace of her bra standing out in contrast, the stretch of her arms over her head. Giving himself a mental shake, he turned his back purposefully and focused on getting himself dressed, dragging it out so that Kitayama would be dressed by the time he turned back around.

“Damn,” Senga said, and Fujigaya twisted to look over his shoulder before he could stop himself.

Kitayama was still struggling with the zipper of the pants as Fujigaya turned, but sucked in a deep breath and managed it finally with a quick yank. The silver of her tank top matched the silver of their shirts but was a much closer fit, emphasizing the curve of her figure against the black lining of the jacket when she pulled it on. She smoothed her palms over the lay of the fabric for a second, then looked up for their opinions. “Well?”

“Looks good,” Tamamori agreed, and then they all looked to Fujigaya for his assessment, only Fujigaya was busy trying to clear his head of club Kitayama, of the shimmer of body glitter and red-tipped eyelashes.

He cleared his throat. “It certainly isn’t hiding you,” he managed, making Kitayama raise an eyebrow.

“That’s what you want, right?” she asked.

“Good, they fit!” Nikaido interrupted Fujigaya’s train of thought before he could answer. She nudged Fujigaya out of the way and fussed with the lay of Kitayama’s jacket for a moment. “You aren’t gonna pop right out of there when you dance, are you? One new girl’s enough, we don’t need both of your girls joining the band as well.”

“Should be okay,” Kitayama confirmed, smirking at Fujigaya’s scrunched expression and Tamamori’s look of horror. “About shoes…”

“Oh, should be in the bottom of your bag,” Nikaido said, attention already turned to checking over Tamamori’s costume and then Fujigaya. She tugged at his waistband, raising an eyebrow at the space between it and his skin. “Fujigaya Taisuke, are you eating properly?”

“No,” Senga and Tamamori both ratted him out without even a second’s hesitation.

“We’ve been busy!” Fujigaya brushed Nikaido’s hands off of him, tugging his silver shirt out of his pants so that it hung loose, hiding his actual waist. “Not like you can just drop a new member in and plan a whole live in a week without giving up–”

“I get to wear sneakers?!” Kitayama’s voice interrupted, and all of them turned to see her holding up her silver-sided sneakers with wide eyes.

“That’s what everyone else has,” Nikaido pointed out, looking just as puzzled as the boys.

A huge grin broke out over Kitayama’s face. “Do you know how long it’s been since I could dance on a stage in sneakers instead of spike heels? Nikaido-san, you just made my whole year.”

“You’re just as easy as these guys, aren’t you?” Nikaido asked, but her expression warmed a little. “And it’s Nika-chan.”

Kitayama was already on the floor, tugging on her new sneakers and lacing them up with obvious glee. She hopped up and gave a few test bounces, then dashed out to the stage to try them out. Senga and Tamamori followed once they’d been giving the thumbs-up by Nikaido, leaving only Fujigaya.

“Seriously, these are going to fall right off your hips,” Nikaido tutted at him, not letting him escape the lecture so easily. “I don’t know how you’re fooling Yokoo-san, but you can’t fool costuming-chan. Did you eat lunch during the break?”

“Yes,” Fujigaya bluffed. He sort of had, eating half a bento between answering emails and still trying to fix that damned song.

Nikaido just shook her head. “You can’t lie worth a damn, you know that, right? Thank god you didn’t go solo, you’d be dead.” She took her tape measure from around her neck and looped it around Fujigaya’s waist without any preamble, eyeing the number where the ends met. “I’ve got this number memorized, and I better not see it again, got it?”

“Got it,” Fujigaya murmured, not very comfortable with the number himself, honestly.

When he got out on stage, Kitayama and Senga were practicing the dance they’d worked through with Yara yesterday, both of their faces lit up, Tamamori dragged into the middle much more reluctantly. Kitayama still had too much hip and hair toss, but to compensate Senga was throwing more of his own into it, laughing as Tsukada and Miyata cat-called them from the soundboard.

“Maybe you should all dress up as girls,” Miyata suggested over the intercom, and Tamamori stopped so suddenly to glare that Senga ran into him and bounced off, landing on the floor in a heap and laughing so hard his eyes were squeezed shut.

Yokoo looked over as Fujigaya had approached, rolling a shoulder towards the action in front of them. “She’s fitting in well, considering, don’t you think?”

Still laughing, Kitayama looked back as if sensing Fujigaya’s eyes on her, but as soon as she caught sight of Fujigaya’s serious expression, hers smoothed out to just a small smile. She turned away and helped Senga off the floor.

“It’s not what I think that matters,” Fujigaya shrugged off Yokoo’s question, but when he went to step away, Yokoo put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him.

“It is, though.” Yokoo said, voice serious. Fujigaya looked back at him and his expression was serious as well. “Tomorrow night two hundred fans will be in here, and when we introduce Kitayama-san, every single one of them is going to turn to watch your reaction. I know you aren’t much good at keeping your feelings off your face, but, Taisuke, if you look like you’ve looked all this week, it’s not going to matter how cute or talented Kitayama is, or how much Sunshine needs her.”

“I can’t help my face,” Fujigaya scowled, hating how right Yokoo was, as always. Damn Manager-san.

“Then I guess you’d better help your feelings instead,” Yokoo suggested. He ran his eyes down the line of Fujigaya’s frame. “And have you eaten anything but coffee today?”

Fujigaya went through the rest of the day on auto-pilot, thinking about Yokoo’s words and just what he was going to do about them. Yokoo was right, he had no hope of hiding his real feelings on his face, which was one of the things fans usually mentioned as his charm point. For better or worse, anybody who knew him at all could read him easily, and right now they could surely read that he felt like Kitayama was an annoyance at best, and an outright invader at worst. It wasn’t personal or anything, he’d feel like that about any fourth member they’d gotten only days before; it was just their bad luck that the president had decided their band had to be some sort of marketing testing scheme.

How on earth was he supposed to change his feelings about that in just a few days?

“You’re staring at me an awful lot,” Kitayama remarked as they were nearing the end of the night. She didn’t seem that concerned about it, just curious.

“I’m not used to somebody standing there, just in the corner of my line of sight. It’s distracting,” Fujigaya offered as an excuse, not feeling very much like getting into it.

For a few seconds, Kitayama eyed him evenly, and Fujigaya looked back, keeping his face as neutral as possible.

“Wow, you are a really awful liar, aren’t you?” Kitayama said bluntly, chuckling. “That’s a little adorable. But really, the staring…?”

“I’m trying to quit thinking of you as some invader,” Fujigaya said, because if she wasn’t going to pull any punches, two could play that game. “I’m just trying to keep Sunshine afloat through tomorrow night.”

“Because the fans can read what you feel right off your face.” Kitayama put it together quickly; she was turning out to be smarter than Fujigaya would have at all guessed to look at her. Fujigaya frowned, sick of discovering new and surprising sides of her, none of which made it easy for him to get a handle on her. “Faking it’s totally no good, isn’t it?” Fujigaya nodded ruefully. “I guess I’m in your hands, then.”

Kitayama kept her distance a little after that, which Fujigaya appreciated even if it didn’t exactly help the problem. He watched her bullshit with Senga and help Miyata bully Tamamori, and he had to admit that Yokoo and President Domoto had been right about how easily she was digging out a little spot for herself.

But all the same, she was an invader, putting his band in a dangerous position even if it wasn’t exactly her fault, and he didn’t see any way to stop feeling like that in the next twenty-four hours.

It was after midnight by the time they all got home, and Fujigaya barely stripped off his boots and jeans before falling face-first onto his mattress and just passing out.

He was entirely unimpressed when someone shook him awake a bit later. Groaning, Fujigaya rolled onto his back and peeled his eyes open.

“Kitayama?” he asked, wondering if he was having a pretty fucked-up dream, since Kitayama had fallen asleep in the changing area, on the van, and then as soon as they dumped her on the couch in the living room. “It’s the middle of the fucking–”

“I know how to fix it!” Kitayama interrupted, eyes dark-ringed but lit up with a sort of manic light.

“What? Fuck, go away.” Fujigaya tried to push her hands off as they kept shaking her, rolling away onto his side. “Bug me in the morning.”

“The song, stupid, I know how to fix it!” she insisted, and that made Fujigaya’s eyes pop open. “Quick, where’s your guitar?”

“It’s right–no, shit, it’s at the venue.” Fujigaya sat up, scrubbing at his eyes.

“Mine too.” Kitayama flopped down on the bed next to Fujigaya, groaning, her weight heavier than her slight frame would suggest given by how much the mattress jostled under Fujigaya. She reached over and stuck an earbud into Fujigaya’s ear. “Here, just use this.”

Kitayama stuck the other earbud into her own ear and thumbed at her iPod until the song started, adjusting the volume now that the sound was split between the two of them. It was the track they had recorded the other day, minus the vocals, and Kitayama sang along, voice quiet but clear. Fujigaya sang along half-heartedly, kind of more sick of this song by now than even Kitayama’s face, but then when they reached the trouble spot, Kitayama motioned for Fujigaya to be quiet.

Braced to cringe like usual, Fujigaya felt his jaw drop when Kitayama sailed right from the verse into the chorus like there had never been a problem at all, exactly what Fujigaya had been trying to put on paper for weeks.

“How’d you do that?!” Fujigaya demanded, and Kitayama grinned proudly.

“I told you, I like to listen to things over and over,” she shrugged, trying and failing to be casual about it. “I just kept trying different stuff, it was partly a timing problem too, just not the notes, so when I switched up some of it, it just…” Kitayama waved her hands in the air a little, like Fujigaya’s issues had been solved by some sort of Tetris maneuver.

“Ugh, whatever,” Fujigaya said, rolling his eyes. “Who cares how you did it, do it again so I can learn it. You sure waited until the last minute!”

“You’re welcome,” Kitayama said, taking the compliment buried deeply in there, and then sang through it again when the second chorus started.

She played it over a few times until Fujigaya had gotten the hang of humming along and they could switch over to him doing the main vocals like he was supposed to. It wasn’t all solved, unfortunately, they still had to work out what the backing vocals would be like now that the melody had been changed, and Fujigaya leaned over to grab one of his notepads of blank sheet music to start writing this all down.

“Ken-chan and Tama should go like,” Fujigaya scribbled as quickly as he could, fingers struggling to keep up with the music in his head, “but maybe you should be more like…ah, does that make it more like a duo melody though? Maybe we should split some of these lines if it’s more like that…”

A soft thump beside him made Fujigaya look over, the earbud yanking out of his ear. Kitayama had tipped over onto her side and was already fast asleep on top of the blankets, curled up and breathing evenly.

“What the hell,” Fujigaya groused at the invasion of his bed, but he was afraid if he stopped he’d lose his train of thought.

Ignoring Kitayama’s cute little snores, he went back to scribbling the notes down as quickly as he could make his hand go. When he was finally satisfied, he had to massaged his palm with his other hand, trying to work out the way his fingers were cramping. The sky was lightening up already, and Fujigaya winced at the thought of the long day ahead.

He set the notepad back on the desk and gave Kitayama a cursory shove, but her breathing didn’t even hitch.

“Couldn’t you even have the decency to get under the fucking blankets?” Fujigaya whined when he tried to crawl under them himself and Kitayama’s weight held them pinned so that he could only get a fraction of them. Using the last of his energy to yank the blankets over enough to at least be under them, Fujigaya buried his face in his pillow and passed out.

It felt like only a few minutes later that his phone alarm started shrilling some piece of cheap Korean pop that Senga insisted would wake up anybody. Fujigaya slapped at his phone until he managed to hit either off or sleep, he wasn’t sure which, then rolled over, not willing to admit that he had to crawl out of bed quite yet.

Someone’s breath on his face made his eyes snap open, and found himself nearly brushing noses with Kitayama. He jerked upright with a shriek and tried to back up, only to overbalance himself and tip right over the edge of his bed with a crash, dragging half the sheets off with him. It knocked the wind out of him, so all he could do was lie there and pant as footsteps pounded down the hallway and his bedroom door was flung open.

“Are you okay?!” Senga demanded, running in in just pajama pants and wildly bedheaded; behind him, Tamamori had a towel around his hair and a toothbrush in his mouth. “I heard screaming and…”

Senga paused, taking Fujigaya on the ground, clutching his ass, the mess of the sheets, and Kitayama still snoring in the middle of the destruction, arms and legs flung wide and T-shirt riding up high enough to show off quite the expanse of flat stomach. Tamamori’s eyes got very wide suddenly.

“No!” Fujigaya pointed at them. “NO!”

“Taipi,” Senga said, grinning. “You dog.” Tamamori mumbled something around his toothbrush of which only the words “your pen” and “company ink” were intelligible.

“THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED,” Fujigaya roared. His face was turning bright pink, which wasn’t helping his case any. “I was asleep! She came in here and woke me up!”

“Ooh, carnivorous woman,” Senga elbowed Tamamori, but Tamamori looked down at Kitayama’s spread-eagle sprawl with obvious doubt. “I always thought that was your type.”

“She wanted to work on the song, you asshole,” Fujigaya spat, giving up on rubbing at his ass even though it still hurt like a son of a bitch, because Senga just kept laughing harder and harder. “She fixed it!”

“Oh?” Senga quit teasing suddenly, eyes lighting up. “Really? What’s it sound like?”

“It’s…” For one horrible moment, Fujigaya couldn’t remember at all what the changed melody sounded like. He sat there frozen for the longest heartbeat ever before he remembered he had written it down. Scrambling to his feet, he made a grab for his notepad, sending the pen flying, and heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the notes in front of him. “Here,” he handed it over to Senga for him to see. “I had to change you and Tama’s parts a bit too.”

Senga and Tamamori peered at the notes, each of them humming different bits, and Fujigaya rolled his eyes. He leaned over Kitayama, thinking surely some of the mayhem must have penetrated her thick skull, but she was still out cold.

“Oi, how can you sleep through all this?” Fujigaya demanded sourly, a poor sleeper even at the best of times.

“Tai,” Kitayama mumbled, as if in response.

“What?” Fujigaya demanded, cheeks flushing right back to pink. “Did you just…”

“Taiyaki,” Kitayama continued, then sighed happily. “Chocolate, definitely…no no, all of them…”

“What the fucking fuck,” Fujigaya said, totally through putting up with all of these nuts. “She’s your problem,” he informed Senga and Tamamori, stomping off to his bathroom. “Get her out of my room before I come back out here.”

“Aw, how are we supposed to do that?” Senga complained, but Fujigaya just announced over his shoulder that he really didn’t care, but good luck either waking her up or carrying her fat ass.

When he’d been under the hot water long enough to be nearly sensible, Fujigaya realized that he was humming his new vocal part to himself.

They had no choice but to practice the new arrangement on stage that afternoon, since everything was already set up and they didn’t have any time to spare. Still, even half-practiced and rushed between mic checks, it sounded a hundred times better to Fujigaya’s ear than the old version.

“Wow, adding a second vocalist makes a ton of difference!” Miyata commented over the intercom. Tamamori rolled his eyes when Miyata added, “But don’t worry, Tama-chan! I still love your voice best!”

“It’s because she warmed up with Taipi all night,” Senga commented, darting out of the way when Fujigaya took a swing at him. Kitayama just raised an eyebrow.

“That’s enough of that,” Yokoo said as he strolled out on stage with a clipboard, giving Fujigaya a pointed glance. He shifted his glance over to Senga long enough to make Senga cough. “That as well, Ken-chan.”

“Like you guys wouldn’t be all up on me or Tama-chan if you found Hiro-chan in our rooms in the morning,” Senga muttered rebelliously.

“Sorry, Ken-chan,” Kitayama drawled, fingering at her guitar idly. “You’re a little young for me, though~.”

“And I’m too tall,” Tamamori put in, like he’d actually been thinking about the logistics. He frowned when Kitayama looked over her shoulder to smirk.

“It’s all the same once you’re horizontal,” she informed him with a wink.

“What did I just say?” Yokoo demanded in exasperation. “Costume check is half an hour before showtime. You four have the next hour for a break and to eat, Nika-chan just dropped off the bentos in your changing room. And Taisuke, eat something, or I’m gonna make you eat it.”

Senga snickered. “That’s what–”

“KENTO.”

Fujigaya tried to obey their manager’s orders, but his stomach was bunched up into knots, and he had barely eaten half of his bento before he felt like he was going to be sick. He hadn’t felt this nervous about a live since he was a trainee, and maybe not even then since he hadn’t had a whole band to worry about back that.

“Eat the rice at least,” Kitayama said, and Fujigaya startled a little because he had forgotten anybody was there. Generally nobody did hang around in the changing room with him; Tamamori was undoubtedly back at the soundboard calling Miyata names, and as to where Senga and Nikaido got off to before shows…it was best not to open any doors without knocking.

“I don’t want any more,” Fujigaya brushed her off. He nudged his bento over, towards Kitayama, away from him. “Take it if you want it.”

“What I want,” Kitayama said, pushing it right back, “is for you not to pass out on stage. Are you always like this or what? I’ve been in your band nearly a week and I’ve seen you eat about a thousand kilocalories combined.”

“It’s not like this week has been entirely normal.” Fujigaya picked his chopsticks back up and picked at the rice. When Kitayama’s stony expression didn’t change, Fujigaya grumbled and ate a purposely overlarge mouthful.

Kitayama did not look impressed when Fujigaya swallowed wrong and ended up needing her to pound him on the back.

“Forget it, starving might be safer,” Kitayama advised, and Fujigaya gave her a dark look as he tried to drink a few swallows of bottled tea in between coughs. “Try to relax a little, geez. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? If they hate me, Domoto will just pull me out and claim it was a stunt, and he’ll probably get away with it. To go back to the way it was before, isn’t that exactly what you want?”

Fujigaya’s mouth tightened, but before he could answer, Kitayama had tucked herself into the corner of the couch, arms folded against her chest and knees pulled up. She was small enough that she wasn’t invading Fujigaya’s space at all, turning herself towards the inside of the couch so that her cheek was pillowed on the back cushion.

“Wake me up for costume check,” she said, eyes already closed.

“With what?” Fujigaya asked, thinking of that morning, of Kitayama spread all across his sheets like she owned them. “A bomb?”

He only got a sleepy murmur from Kitayama, and he turned away, clicking his tongue as she obviously fell right to sleep. If only he could fall asleep so easily, but Fujigaya knew there was no chance of being able to, no matter how badly he could use a nap. He was still a nervous mess, so he spent the break checking his mails on his phone and trying to calm himself down. The mails weren’t quite interesting enough to keep him distracted, aside from one from Kawai.

[Don’t fall off the stage and die! ( ^_^)b]

“Ass,” Fujigaya said to nobody, smiling in spite of himself, and he sent back the reply that Kawai could go fuck his underage schoolgirl manager for all he cared.

The room was silent except for the click of Fujigaya’s thumbs on his phone buttons and Kitayama’s soft, even breathing. It must have been more soothing than he thought, because before Fujigaya realized how much time had passed, Tamamori strolled into the room looking entirely self-satisfied. He was followed shortly by Senga, sneaking in more sheepishly, practically glowing all over and making a beeline for the mirror to try and finger-comb his hair back into some sort of order.

“Wow, you look relaxed!” Senga commented over his shoulder, having apparently caught sight of Fujigaya’s reflection in the mirror.

“He does?” Tamamori asked, tilting his head.

“Well, you know, compared to usual,” Senga clarified, and Tamamori gave a little “Aha.” Senga stretched, baring a stripe of stomach as his T-shirt rode up, and a reasonably questionable bruise. Tamamori reached over to poke it with one finger, making Senga yelp and twist away. He yanked his shirt up farther to see himself and groaned. “I told her no marks!”

“Getting ready?” Yokoo asked, sticking his head in the door, and Senga yanked his shirt down immediately, trying to look innocent. “They just opened the doors a minute ago.”

“Miyacchi says that if a mob rushes the stage, he’ll turn out the lights quick for us,” Tamamori reported. “So we can make a run for it.”

“We should scatter so more of us have a chance of making it to safety,” Senga agreed seriously. “I’m breaking left.”

“Would you two quit that?” Yokoo demanded. “Honestly, is a little optimism too much to ask for?” He glanced down at the source of their current drama, still snoring peacefully. “Or were you just hoping that she’d sleep through the whole thing?”

“I’m not waking her up again today,” Senga said, crossing his arms. “She’s scary.”

Rolling his eyes at the weakness of his kouhai, Fujigaya reached over and pinched Kitayama’s nostrils soundly shut. “See? Was that so–”

Fujigaya wasn’t so smug when Kitayama came awake swinging.

It seemed like no time at all after that that the four of them were standing backstage, Nikaido patting down their costumes a last time, Yokoo pressing fingertips against his headset anxiously as they waited for Miyata to start the intro video. In the tense silence between them, they could hear the crowd, muffled to a murmur by the stage set and curtains dividing them from backstage.

“Hey,” Senga tugged Kitayama’s sleeve, “can’t you be a guy? For just a little bit? Because I definitely want to dance with you more.”

Kitayama blinked for a second, before she gave Senga a small smile. “Thanks, Ken-chan,” she said, instead of answering, and Senga heaved a sigh.

“Ugh, I can’t TAKE IT,” Tamamori blurted, not terribly patient under the best circumstances. “Miyacchi, hurry up and start!”

“This is ridiculous,” Fujigaya announced, and without looking back to see what Yokoo or anybody else was going to do about it, he marched himself out onto the stage. A swirl of screams erupted, moving from the side of the audience who had spotted him first out through the rest of the fans.

“What are you doing?” Miyata’s voice was barely audible in Fujigaya’s earpiece over the ruckus.

“Shut up and dim the house lights,” Fujigaya told him quietly, then reached for the microphone at his usual spot and pulled it off the stand. “How’s everybody doing out there? Ready to start?”

The pitch of screams seemed to make Fujigaya’s back molars buzz, or maybe that was the stream of invectives Yokoo was directing at him over his headpiece. Fujigaya reached up and tugged out his earpiece, taking a deep breath.

“So, maybe you’ve realized the reason for this special event?” he asked, and some members of the crowd called out the right idea, while others just hollered his name for no reason, or Tamamori or Senga’s name. “Ah, some of you figured it out, it’s because Sunshine has a new member. No?” he asked when some audience members gave a loud “EH?!” He put a hand on one hip, tutting at them. “Have you been checking the website properly? Properly, next time, properly!”

Some of the audience laughed, although there was a lot of whispering, and the tension in the room had definitely gone up. He could see the glare of good number of girls checking their phones, lighting up their faces in the dim room as if they all had matching penlights from a previous tour.

“When you meet the new member, you might be a bit shocked,” Fujigaya continued, trying to sound calm and encouraging, even as his throat was drying out and he was wishing desperately that he’d thought this through before coming out to do this on his own. “But I want you to give it a chance, okay? Just trust us for a little bit, and I think you’ll see how valuable this person can be for Sunshine. Can you trust me just for tonight?”

“Yeeeees,” most of the audience chorused automatically, over the whispers and the exchanged glances.

“Here goes nothing,” Fujigaya murmured away from his mic, reaching up to put his earpiece back in. He winced when Yokoo’s abuse picked up mid-sentence, about twice as loud as when he’d stopped listening before. “Kitayama? Come out here. Ken-chan and Tama too.”

The whispers hushed like a switch had been thrown when Kitayama strode out on stage, Senga and Tamamori a few steps behind her. All three of them were hiding their nervousness as best they could, but Fujigaya could read them well enough to see through that. He wondered if any of the fans could as well. He was afraid to look out at them honestly, afraid of what was going to happen when the shocked silence finally broke.

When she got close enough, Fujigaya held out his microphone for Kitayama to take, and she nodded her thanks to him before she turned and faced the audience. She gave them a bright smile, projecting as much self-confidence as she could. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Kitayama Hiromi, and I’m sure I’m not what you were expecting. But if you think you feel surprised, you should have seen these guys’ faces.”

A few audience members laughed, although it was strained, and Fujigaya dared a glance at the audience’s faces. It wasn’t as bad as he had feared, although it wasn’t that encouraging; most of them still looked stunned, and he wondered how much of Kitayama’s words were really getting through.

“But these guys are really amazing, you know?” Kitayama continued. “They’ve been doing their best all week to make me feel welcome, and even though the four of us have been working very hard to show you our best sides tonight, it hasn’t felt like work at all. So I hope we can become good friends, and that we can get our feelings across to you. Please take care of me.”

Kitayama bowed deeply. Fujigaya, Tamamori, and Senga echoed their own “Please take care of us,” and bowed as well. After a second, a smattering of applause broke out, and the four of them straightened up and exchanged glances. Tamamori looked a bit pale, but Senga was smiling, apparently pleased with Kitayama’s self-introduction.

“Let’s start with the new one,” Fujigaya said on impulse, making Tamamori squawk a little, but Senga and Kitayama nodded. “If that doesn’t win them over, there’s not much point in the rest of it.”

The rest of the live passed in a blur, and if the audience wasn’t the most high tension audience ever, they did warm up a little as the set went on. Some girls seemed determined to sulk, Fujigaya could see, but most followed along with their penlights as usual, and after a while he started to see more and more smiles, to hear the usual laughter when Tamamori jumbled all his words trying to talk between songs. Senga started an impromptu dance battle with Kitayama to cover it up, and they even got some catcalls.

“Oi, this is why we always need like thirteen guests for the MCs,” Fujigaya scolded Tamamori off-mic, but it was more resigned than scolding. They were nearing the end of the live, and Fujigaya was mentally debating what they should do since they had done the new song first rather than as the finale. “About the end, let’s–”

“We should do the new one again,” Kitayama put in quickly. “In the spot where we planned it. Most of them probably were too distracted to listen the first time, right? Besides,” Kitayama grinned, a bit sly, “I bet a lot of them didn’t have their recorders on yet, since you marched out here so suddenly. I’m not going to become an vocal sensation overnight if nobody has any proof.”

“Okay, okay,” Fujigaya gave in, shooing off a giggling Senga and Tamamori. “Have it your way. Miyacchi, you have it cued up?” Fujigaya asked into his headset. He paused, rolling his eyes when he heard nothing but Miyata cooing about how cute Tamamori was. “Miyacchi! Knock it off up there!”

“Sorry, sorry!” Miyata apologized, still laughing. Fujigaya glanced to the side just to see Tamamori’s unimpressed expression. “I’m ready, I promise!”

It was the right choice; they got a much better audience response than they had the first time, melting away most of Fujigaya’s worries that everyone would hate the new song and he’d be fired right along with Kitayama. Kitayama seemed pleased as well, and when she caught Fujigaya’s eye by chance, she winked, sending a little ripple of excitement through the girls right in front of her.

When they bowed at the end and said their usual, “We are Sunshine,” Fujigaya found himself really wanting it to be true, and Kitayama’s hand squeezed more tightly around his as if she knew what he was thinking.

4 Confession!! painful unrequited love

When they came off the stage, Fujigaya felt like he was practically shaking from relief, and the others didn’t really look much better. Kitayama nearly dropped her guitar trying to hand it off to the staff member, and Senga got so tangled in the strap of his bass that Tamamori had to lift it over his head while he twirled in a little circle to undo the mess.

“It’s getting worse!” Senga whined, because it was.

“Other way!” Tamamori snapped. “Righty tighty lefty loosey!”

“No kidding,” Fujigaya commented, then jumped when Nikaido popped up just behind him with a scowl.

After spending an hour trying to win over fangirls, the press conference was almost anti-climactic. Not that their reactions to Kitayama were at all unexpected, and it was difficult to drag the topic away from just the fact that she was a girl, regardless of what talents or benefits she might offer to Sunshine.

“Has President Domoto said anything specific about why he’s choosing to front a girl so suddenly in his all-male agency?” One woman called out, as if any of them could possibly be so stupid as to put words in the president’s mouth.

“Is this just another Domoto publicity stunt?” another called out, even more bluntly. Kitayama and Senga both opened their mouth, but Fujigaya leaned forward quickly before either one of them could speak.

“Kitayama has written the lyrics for three of Sunshine’s latest releases,” Fujigaya said, using all of his willpower to keep from looking annoyed.

“Did she write the lyrics to the new song we heard tonight?” one of the more quick-witted reports called out.

“NO,” Kitayama leaned forward to say emphatically into her mic, making Senga and Tamamori hide snickers behind their hands.

Pressing his lips together, Fujigaya continued, “So even though it’s been in a behind the scenes capacity, she already has been working with Sunshine for some time. Her voice and image match well with ours, and she recently left her original agency so that she was available full-time. She would be a natural choice in a co-ed agency.”

“Do you think including Kitayama-san has anything to do with the fact that recently Sunshine has had embarrassing publicity involving women?” someone else asked. “Is this an attempt to redeem your image with your mainly-female demographic?”

“I hardly think adding a girl is the easy way to female fans’ hearts,” Fujigaya said, unable to help himself, but he cleared his throat when Yokoo gave him a sharp look from the side. “But I don’t think overall that Sunshine does have an image problem with women. We have plenty of women on our staff and at Domoto’s, including many in management positions, and they seem to like us just fine.”

“Believe me, with our staff, you’d know if they didn’t,” Tamamori put in, and a few people laughed, breaking the tension a little. Senga’s eyes darted around a little as if afraid his girlfriend might pop up in a cloud of smoke, as if summoned.

“So what reasons were you given for Kitayama-san’s addition to the group?” asked somebody, finally.

“It’s my fault, really,” Fujigaya said, making everybody in the room turn and blink at him. “This is hard for me to admit, but the truth is just that I needed help. Some of our new arrangements are just too complicated for me to play lead guitar and be lead vocal at the same time. Kitayama is a much more talented guitarist than I am, plus the addition of another strong vocalist opens up a lot more possibilities for our second album.”

“She’s a really good dancer too,” Senga put in. “You saw, right? Well, you didn’t see much yet, I guess, but it’s a big relief to me to have her too. Do you know how hard it is to get these guys to practice?”

“That’s about all the time that we have,” Yokoo said, stepping forward onto the stage. “We can take one more question, I think.”

“Is there anything you want to say to your fans about the change?” one of the women near the front asked.

“Well…” Fujigaya looked at Kitayama and Senga on his one side and Tamamori on his other, but they all just blinked at him, making it his problem as leader. “Just that, I know this change might seem sudden and it will take some time to get used to things being like this, but I think the difference it will make in the second album will definitely be worth. So please keep supporting us, and we’re grateful to those fans who have been supporting Sunshine up until now.”

“Sunshine’s fans were very kind at the live tonight,” Kitayama put in, surprising Fujigaya since he was generally the only one who said anything important at a press conference. “I had a lot of fun, and I hope we can meet again in the future.”

After they stood for pictures, Fujigaya’s energy seemed to run out all at once, and he got changed on auto-pilot, wanting nothing more than to go home and crawl into his bed.

“Uninterrupted,” he said with a pointed look at Kitayama as they shouldered their bags, making Kitayama laugh. They were the only two heading out to meet Yokoo at the van, Senga and Miyata having coaxed Tamamori and Nikaido to doubling their ramen date.

“Be careful,” Yokoo had admonished before he’d gone out to pull the van around. “And no getting caught by the paparazzi with strange women!”

“Definitely none of that,” Nikaido had said with a dark look at Senga.

“Nika, he means you.” Senga rolled his eyes, then grunted when Nikaido punched him in the arm.

The three of them didn’t have much to say in the van on the way home, Yokoo concentrating on the road, and Fujigaya fighting to keep his eyes open. He assumed that Kitayama was asleep in the middle seat, since Kitayama had slept through basically every trip they’d taken in a vehicle, so it startled him out of a light doze when Kitayama tapped him on the shoulder.

“Wha?” Fujigaya asked, blinking. He twisted around against his seatbelt and found Kitayama not asleep at all, expression serious.

“What changed?” Kitayama asked.

“About what?” Fujigaya yawned.

“You said you were trying not to think of me as an intruder,” Kitayama explained. Yokoo looked over with a raised eyebrow, making Fujigaya squirm, even though Kitayama was only telling the truth. “But tonight you didn’t look at me like that at all. So what changed?”

Fujigaya wasn’t sure himself what the answer was and thinking about it was making him feel like squirming even more. He wasn’t sure why he’d marched out on stage alone like a human shield, why the reporter’s focus on Kitayama had gotten under his skin so much, why Kitayama could be so annoying and he still just ended up doing things to protect her over and over.

Finally he answered a flip, “Maybe I just started to warm up to the idea of not having to do all the work myself around here,” and turned back to face front again.

Kitayama chuckled. “Now that I do believe.” She let it go at that, the only other noise in the car Yokoo’s soft snort.

Suddenly not sleepy at all, Fujigaya rolled it over and over in his mind the rest of the way home, but never did come up with an answer that satisfied him. He escaped to his room as soon as the van came to a complete stop and took a shower hot enough to make his hair curl from the steam, and then dropped into bed, hoping to sleep off all the weird feelings.

The next day they had the morning off, so it was full daylight before Fujigaya dragged himself out of bed, lured by the smell of coffee. He wasn’t even that surprised to see Tamamori and Miyata sitting shoulder to shoulder at the heart-shaped counter, Tamamori looking about as lucid as mud and Miyata’s hair poofed up in all directions.

Fujigaya held up his phone and snapped a picture of two of them, Miyata’s smile huge and Tamamori startling at the sound of the click before he lapsed into a scowl and scooted his stool a few centimeters away from Miyata.

“Aw, so precious,” Fujigaya cooed, admiring his handiwork on his phone screen. “I think I’ll mail it Myojo for our off-shots, your fans don’t seem to care if you cheat on them with a guy.”

“Gayaaaaa,” Tamamori whined, letting his head thunk on the table. Miyata patted the back of his head soothingly, smile not dimming even a little bit. Fujigaya mailed the picture to Miyata before tucking his phone away with a smirk, sure that Miyata would make it his background or something equally sickening.

He had no idea how late Senga had been out the night before, but he was sitting on the couch now when Fujigaya brought his mug of coffee out, still in his street clothes from the night before. His laptop was balanced on his lap, and Fujigaya saw the telltale logo of Sunshine’s official website as he glanced over Senga’s shoulder.

“How bad is it?” Fujigaya asked, sipping at his coffee.

“Morning, Taipi,” Senga greeted, tipping his head back to smile, and Fujigaya raised his eyebrow at the cute little bruise on Senga’s collarbone, just under the collar of his T-shirt. “It could be worse? You shouldn’t look for a while, but, you know, some of them are interesting? Here, look at this one.”

He patted the seat beside him on the couch, and Fujigaya came around the end of it and settled in the offered spot, taking care not to slosh his coffee all over the white material. Senga passed the laptop over and leaned his head cutely on Fujigaya’s shoulder while he read the message board post Senga had pointed out.

[At first I was so surprised and distracted that I barely heard the first three songs. But when they did the new song again at the end and I listened properly, I thought that it was really catchy. If that girl helped write it, maybe I can give her a chance? Wish she would have helped with the lyrics though.]

“Everyone’s a critic.” Fujigaya clicked his tongue as he handed the laptop back. “Speaking of ‘that girl,’ where is she?”

“She said until we find out whether she’s fired or not, she’s not getting out of bed,” Senga reported. “Yokoo-san hasn’t called yet. Do you think that’s good?”

“Ugh, who knows,” Fujigaya sighed, letting his head fall back against the couch and closing his eyes.

“Aw~, it really is a cute picture!” Miyata’s voice floated out of the kitchen, followed by more whining from Tamamori. “I’m making this my background for sure.”

“I HATE YOU, GAYA,” Tamamori announced. “And you, too! Gross!”

“I’m glad every day that I’m not involved in such dysfunctional relationships like the two of you have,” Fujigaya muttered. He cracked an eye when Senga didn’t answer, only to find Senga eyeing him like Fujigaya was a slow but cute trainee. “What?”

“Never mind,” Senga shrugged, going back to the computer. Fujigaya narrowed his eyes and reached over to poke Senga right in the little bruise, making him squeak.

Eventually Yokoo showed up with the newspapers from that morning, which at least showed the four of them in a positive light and didn’t outright mis-quote anything they had said.

“That’s the good news,” Yokoo said as the four of them passed the articles around, skimming for their pictures and quotes. “The other news is that the president wants to see you in his office this afternoon.”

“Is that the bad news?” Senga asked, glancing nervously from Yokoo to Fujigaya to Kitayama. Yokoo only said that they knew as much as he did at this point, but that with the way the newspaper articles and the website looked, he was cautiously optimistic.

“I’d be happier if they weren’t all calling Hiromi ‘that girl,’” Yokoo continued, with a little look of exasperation like he got when they’d been in the car ten minutes and Tamamori announced that he’d forgotten his sneakers again. “But I guess you can’t ask for miracles overnight.”

That afternoon in the president’s office, Senga squished in between Tamamori and Fujigaya on the couch in a transparent ploy for reassurance, expression anxious. Kitayama perched on one of the arms of the couch, but her over-neutral expression said that she was just as nervous, and Fujigaya doubted he looked any more confident. The waiting was the worst part, and it was a relief when the president finally bustled in, harried assistant trailing behind him, struggling not to drop half of her papers.

Fujigaya couldn’t help but think of the last time they had been in this office, and that President Domoto would have probably done better to hire Kitayama as his assistant. The president’s raised eyebrow said that he was thinking more or less the same thing.

“Yamamoto-san?” he asked, holding out a hand.

“O-oh!” the poor girl stuttered, rifling through her folders. “I just h-had it, r-right–ah!” She handed a stapled packet of papers over to the president, only to have several of the other folders spill right out of her hands to the floor. Her face turned bright pink as she bent to grab for them, then remembered about the length of her skirt a second too late, and dropped to a crouch, cheeks scarlet. The president only watched the whole scene with a raised eyebrow and a faint air of amusement.

Kitayama slid off the arm of the couch and bent down to help, quickly scooping the contents back into their folders and handing them back to Yamamoto.

“T-thank you,” she said as they stood, clutching the haphazard pile to her chest and bowing. She looked like she wanted to crawl right under the president’s desk, and not for the usual reason. “I’m so s-sorry!”

“That will be all, Yamamoto-san,” the president dismissed her, and Yamamoto was in such a hurry to get out of the room that she nearly ran smack into the plate glass of the office door before Yokoo held it open for her out of mercy.

“So, Sunshine!” the president greeted them, as if nothing at all out of the ordinary had just happened. “I hear we had an exciting night last night! And the new song sounds great. GOOD JOB,” he praised, making Fujigaya struggle to keep a straight face.

“Have you heard it?” Senga asked, puzzled.

“Fan recording.” The president’s smile was sharp. “Impressive clarity too! Makes me wonder where your fans hide their equipment.”

Fujigaya was not at all wondering that, or wanting to, but Kitayama leaned over to whisper smugly, “Told you doing it again was best.” Fujigaya gave Kitayama a shove with his elbow that made her flail for a second to keep her balance on the edge of the couch.

“So we should let the fans hear Kitayama’s voice properly, don’t you think?” the president went on, smiling in that calculated way that Fujigaya knew would mean long hours of work compressed into not that many days. “Timing is critical, so I was thinking digital release for both.”

“Both?” Tamamori asked, clearly not following at all.

“The new song and…” Fujigaya prompted.

“A solo for Kitayama,” Domoto said, making Fujigaya’s mouth pinch shut. “That should get you nice and warmed up to start working on your second album, don’t you think? I think it would go a long way in the fans’ hearts if the two of you put in a joint effort and wrote it together. And then we can use the sales figures to figure out the perfect ratio of how much of Kitayama we should use on the new album. No point in guessing, when we can have actual figures in front of us, is there?”

Fujigaya had gone a little pale but was struggling to keep his face professional, knowing he should ask how fast he and Kitayama were supposed to write this thing, but not at all wanting the answer.

“When would you want the solo by?” Yokoo asked, properly thorough as usual.

“The end of the week, I should think,” Domoto said breezily, making even Yokoo wince. “We’ll need a little time to promote and such. Although if you could give us a title and a loose concept in a few days, we could compress the timing of the cover shoot and some other things nicely.”

Making a high-pitched noise of distress, Fujigaya gave up looking professional and buried his face in his hands. Senga patted his shoulder.

“Well, now that that’s all settled,” the president started shooing them out, “I’m sure you all want to be on your way to get to work. Oh, and if Yamamoto-san seems like she’s collected herself out there, could you send her back in? I have some filing for her to do.”

“Probably in the very bottom drawer,” Senga muttered on the way by, and Yokoo cuffed him on the back of the head.

The next few days were a haze as Fujigaya wrote and rewrote, unhappy with everything and getting progressively crankier. Like trying to have Kitayama match the image of the other three members without hiding the fact that she was a girl, he couldn’t quite nail the mix of feminine/aggressive that would give people a sense of who Kitayama really was. Writer’s block jammed him for a solid twelve hours, only intensifying his type-A panic. At one point he was coming out of his room only to refill his coffee, and Kitayama eyed the way his hands were shaking with a raised eyebrow.

“I think you’ve had enough of that,” Kitayama suggested, only to find herself on the business end of Fujigaya’s fiercest glare.

“Feel free to write your stupid solo yourself!” he snapped, but all it did was make Kitayama turn to Tamamori and ask if Fujigaya was always such a basketcase under a deadline.

“Er,” Tamamori said nervously, sensing that the truth was the wrong answer. “Taipi just takes things really seriously.” He shrank a little under Fujigaya’s pointed glare. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing! Right?” He looked to Kitayama for help, eyes pleading.

“Whatever works for you, I guess,” Kitayama shrugged, and for some reason her shrugging the whole thing off made Fujigaya’s mood turn even crankier.

“Maybe if everyone else took things more seriously, I wouldn’t have to get so worked up!” he announced.

“Just because I don’t have my panties all in a twist, doesn’t mean I’m not taking things seriously,” Kitayama pointed out. She held up her notebook, showing the lyrics she was working on. “I just don’t see how all your flap and fuss is helping you get anything done. If you tried relaxing and clearing your head for an hour instead of winding yourself up tighter and tighter, don’t you think you’d get better results?”

Tamamori was staring at Kitayama in horror, having learned through experience that calling Fujigaya out wasn’t something that ever ended well. Fujigaya’s mouth worked in silent fury for a few seconds, but no sound came out.

“God, just fuck all of you!” he finally managed, before stomping back to his room and slamming the door shut hard enough to make his coffee slosh. The only thing he could think about was how Kitayama was driving him crazy at every turn, and when he started scribbling things down suddenly it was no problem at all to write a song about that.

“It’s perfect,” Yokoo said when Fujigaya presented him with the sample version. “And Ken-chan says that you only threw one temper tantrum. See, I told you Hiromi would be good for you.”

“Just shut up and take it,” Fujigaya grumbled, yanking the thumb drive out of his laptop and shoving it into Yokoo’s hands, and then he went to sleep off the rest of the afternoon as he so richly deserved.

When he woke up, it was already getting dark, and Fujigaya had five messages and fifteen mails from Kawai saying that tonight was Accel’s big event in Shimokitazawa and if Fujigaya missed it Kawai was totally breaking up with him.

[And bring that hot new chick,] his mail added with a few emoticons that Fujigaya didn’t even know his phone possessed. [Your message boards are all worked up about her, so she must be worth meeting. Plus I already know she likes my kind of club~.]

“What the fuck ever,” Fujigaya told his phone, mailing back that he was coming and not to blow up his phone like a fifteen-year-old girl, even though being broken up with by Kawai was more incentive not to go, honestly.

He needed a shower desperately, and to change into something he wouldn’t mind getting club funk all over, but before all of that he shuffled out of his room and over to Kitayama’s to inform her that they were going out.

“My, how forward of you,” Kitayama commented, looking up from the Shounen Jump that was open in front of her. She was lying on her stomach, feet kicking in the air slowly, back and forth, thick-rimmed glasses adorably out of fashion. “But shouldn’t you ask a girl out on a date properly? I might say no, you know.”

She blinked at him innocently behind her glasses, and Fujigaya reminded himself firmly, not cute, not cute at all.

“Not out out,” Fujigaya corrected, mouth a thin line. “Out to a club. My friend’s band is playing at Shimokitazawa and I have to go, and also bring you because he wants to see what’s got our fans all in a frenzy.” He gave Kitayama a pointed look so that she would know whose fault exactly that was. “Don’t act like sleazy clubs aren’t your thing either, we both know the truth.”

“Your friend Kawai Fumito?” Kitayama asked, sitting up and actually looking interested. “From Crazy Accel?”

“Y..es,” Fujigaya said slowly, not that it was a secret he still stayed in touch with Kawai, but Kitayama’s immediate familiarity seemed a bit odd. He was even more puzzled when Kitayama swung her legs off the bed and immediately started shooing Fujigaya out the door.

“I’ll be ready in twenty minutes, don’t be late picking me up,” she informed him.

“Picking you up?” Fujigaya demanded as he was shoved out the doorway. “Your room is twenty meters away from mine!”

“Should be easy then, right? And knock this time, this is a lady’s room.” And with that, Kitayama shut the door right in Fujigaya’s face. He was so stunned that he went on standing there until he heard the water of Kitayama’s shower running, and then hurried off to his own shower with pink cheeks and a scowl.

Twenty minutes later exactly (he wasn’t letting her win even something so stupid as that), he knocked on Kitayama’s door, expecting more or less the same glittery, low-cut ensemble as Kitayama’d had the last time he saw her out.

He was too surprised to even make a snarky comment when Kitayama actually answered the door in bright red skinny jeans and an off-the-shoulder T-shirt with glittery silver script scrawled across it, loose enough to make her slim figure vague underneath it and falling to her mid-thigh. The red strap of her tank top was conspicuous against the pale skin of her bare shoulder, and Fujigaya found himself thinking of the red-accented lashes from the last club incident.

“Well?” Kitayama asked, finishing putting in her earring, long silver dangles, asymmetric to the crystal studs in her other ear. She gave her head a little toss so that the earring shook itself out and fell properly. “Do I need a hat? Are you gonna get me tabloided? I’m not doing my hair the rest of the way if I need a hat.”

“Am I gonna get you tabloided?” Fujigaya demanded. Kitayama rolled her eyes and reached for a soft, short-brimmed black cap lying on her bed, which could have just as easily belonged to Tamamori as her. “Seriously, what’s up with that?” Fujigaya motioned up-down with two of his fingers, from Kitayama’s hat to her red flats. “Last time you looked totally…and you look…”

Kitayama eyed Fujigaya evenly as he failed to fill in any actual adjectives. “I told you I wasn’t that kind of girl,” she said when he had trailed off, shrugging the bare shoulder. She brushed past him, into the hallway. “Are you bringing a jacket? I might not, it’ll be annoying in the club.”

“Winter is a battle against fashion!” Fujigaya announced haughtily, and it startled a laugh out of Kitayama as she pulled the hat down onto her head, low over her eyes, and smoothed her new haircut back over her ears where it wanted to stick out.

They were both shivering on the train, but the club was already packed and over-warm, so leaving their coats behind had been a better choice. Kitayama had no trouble slipping through the crowd on her way to the bar, so easily that Fujigaya had a bit of trouble keeping up, seemed to always catch elbows in his chest or bump the women in inopportune places.

“Why does that not surprise me?” Fujigaya asked when Kitayama was already leaning over the bar, arms folded on the top of it with her breasts squished against them, apparently an acquaintance of the bartender.

“Shush, he’s an old friend, I got you a free drink,” Kitayama admonished as the bartender mixed their drinks, and Fujigaya eyed him skeptically and wondered what ‘an old friend’ meant in Kitayama language. The bartender pushed a martini glass full of something bright pink towards them and Kitayama nudged it over to Fujigaya. “Thanks, Tatsumi. Say ‘thank you,’ Tai-chan,” Kitayama directed, as if Fujigaya were a shy child.

Fujigaya was busy tasting his drink, and when his eyebrows shot up nearly to his hair at the strength of it, Tatsumi laughed and said that was thanks enough. He passed something green and layered to Kitayama and gave both of them a lazy salute before going to the other end of the bar to deal with some other patrons who were flagging him down for refills.

“Let me try,” Kitayama said, and without actually waiting for permission, pulled Fujigaya’s wrist over until she could reach the edge of the glass with her mouth, and then lifted his wrist to tilt it towards her. “Woo,” she said, releasing Fujigaya’s arm. “Strong! What is that, watermelon?”

Fujigaya frowned at the lip gloss smudges on the side of his glass, then turned it so that he was drinking from the other side. “How am I supposed to know? It burned all my taste buds off.” He looked down at Kitayama’s drink, Kitayama sipping through her straw and looking up through her lashes at him innocently. “What’s that?”

“A Pearl Harbor,” Kitayama answered. She explained when Fujigaya keep staring, “It’s like a Blue Hawaiian, but with Midori instead of Blue Caracao. I think it’s called that because you get bombed suddenly. Wanna try?”

“That’s not funny, and no,” Fujigaya informed her, then downed half his drink at once, not at all drunk enough for this. Fortunately, just then the DJ announced that he would be stepping down and Crazy Accel would be entertaining them for the next few hours. Fujigaya was more than happy to drain his glass and drag Kitayama off by the arm, still holding her glass.

“Hold on a second, geez,” Kitayama protested, digging her heels in so that they ground to a halt. She finished off her drink in a couple long strawfuls, grimacing, and then set her empty glass on a nearby table. “Okay, fine.”

Fujigaya found a spot against the wall, most of the way down towards the stage, where they could see just about everything but were out of the way of the craziest fangirls, and hopefully wouldn’t be noticed by any of Sunshine’s fans if any were there.

“Assuming that Sunshine still has fans,” Fujigaya sighed to himself.

“What?” Kitayama called over the noise around them.

“Nothing!” Fujigaya said, more loudly. Accel was coming out on stage, shouting at each other cheerfully and plugging in things and lowering mics on the stands. “That’s Kawai in the middle, and Tsukada pushing the drumkit around, and Goseki on bass, and then the one with the guitar is–”

“Totsuka Shota!” Kitayama interrupted, watching the group on stage with interest. “I know!”

“You…” Fujigaya noticed all of a sudden how well Kitayama seemed to fit in here, how closely her clothes matched the style of the other girls, and some guys, around them. He’d gathered that Kitayama must have been here before, since she’d known the bartender, but it apparently went deeper than that. “You know who they are? Have you seen them before?”

Kitayama’s response was lost in a sudden chord from Totsuka’s guitar and the screams from the audience. Fujigaya looked up to see Kawai wrap both hands around the mic stand and lean into it as he introduced them, already grinning a bit maniacally before the first song even started. Fujigaya scanned the immediate area around the stage and spotted Hashimoto at the stage corner on the side opposite him. She was wearing her school uniform blouse, her shirtsleeves and skirt rolled way up, long dark hair held back by the same sproingy headband that Kawai had been wearing when Fujigaya had seen him last as if it were her manager’s badge. Hashimoto’s arms were crossed and she was bouncing on the balls of her feet in a much more subdued way than the girls around her, her expression focused on Accel’s antics on stage and faintly critical.

She turned her head, looking right at Fujigaya as if she knew he were watching the whole way across the room, and gave him a nod hello with the same faintly critical look as he looked over his outfit and noticed Kitayama beside him. Fujigaya yanked his gaze away with a scowl and tried to focus back on stage.

He wondered why all the women in his life were terrifying. Maybe he should join Crazy Accel after all; at least half their fans were male.

Once he forgot about Hashimoto and being caught by either crazy fans or paparazzi, Fujigaya enjoyed himself. Crazy Accel’s music was so different than their own, less structured and more experimental, sometimes dissonant and sometimes melodic and certainly much louder. Some of it worked for Fujigaya and some of it made his fingers itch with the need to fix their intervals properly, but it buzzed through him pleasantly from the floor into the soles of his boots and up through the rest of him, and it was impossible to resist the urge to move along with it, to be swept up along with the rest of the crowd.

Beside him, Kitayama was enjoying herself immensely, apparently forgetting that Fujigaya was even there. She danced along every bit in sync with the people around them, hopped cutely during “Jump Up” on the chorus cues, and only went very still when the rest of the band took a water break and Totsuka did his ballad solo, backed only by his own acoustic guitar.

Fujigaya knew that Kawai had spotted them, but he didn’t do anything other than meet Fujigaya’s briefly, and Fujigaya had hopes that maybe they would escape this entire event without notice. He should have known his luck couldn’t possibly last the whole night.

“Wow, you guys are great!” Kawai praised, having been on stage an hour and a half and looking like he was ready to go four more. His hair was stuck to his head in sweaty curls until Kawai ran his hands through them carelessly and spiked them all up. “Hasshi-chan, definitely book us here again, okay? We’re counting on you!”

Fujigaya couldn’t hear Hashimoto’s unmic-ed response, but from the cheers and catcalls on her side of the stage, he guessed Accel’s manager must have found that a favorable idea.

“But you know,” Kawai went on, leaning in against his mic stand like he was sharing a secret, “there’s somebody really special here tonight. Anybody spotted him already?” A ripple of confusion worked its way across the crowd as fans started looking around. “He’s got a really silly hat on.”

Fujigaya yanked his hat down a little lower over his eyes and growled quietly, “There is nothing wrong with my hat, you dick.”

“It’s a little silly,” Kitayama informed him, only grinning wider when he tipped his hat up just enough to glare at her with one eye.

“He’s one of my most treasured people, aside from these guys,” Kawai went on, merciless and cheerful, “and I bet you know him too. Would Fujigaya Taisuke please report to the stage? Oh, and friend! Hurry up, hurry up, it’s best not to keep Accel’s fans waiting~.”

“Fine!” Fujigaya snapped, making some people near him turn in surprise. He started pushing forward through the crowd, but he grabbed Kitayama’s wrist on the way by, damned if he was going up there by himself. Kitayama struggled a bit, but Fujigaya only tightened his grip and pulled her along.

“Really?” Kawai was asking the crowd as Fujigaya and Kitayama clambered over some low amps to get up onto the stage. “Did you really not notice this guy? Taipi, what are you even wearing?”

“Sorry, this was the only thing I could find in your mother’s closet this morning,” Fujigaya shouted back, gratified when the audience laughed for him.

“That’s a low blow,” Kawai said, shaking his head sadly as he handed over his mic to Fujigaya, and then reached behind him to steal Totsuka’s for himself. Totsuka just rolled his eyes, mouing at the crowd with a long-suffering face and winning over the ladies’ sympathy, judging from the response. “I used to be in Taisuke’s agency, you guys know that right?” He paused for the audience to holler yes. “We used to sing this song, it was one of my favorites, and tonight, special treat!”

“No,” Fujigaya said, trying to shove the microphone back into Kawai’s hands, “NO.”

Kawai wrapped his arm around Fujigaya’s shoulders and dragged him in close, making Fujigaya whine that he was disgusting and dripping all over him.

“It was called ‘Kimi to CONNECTION,’” Kawai ignored Fujigaya’s struggles, raising his mic hand for a second to motion ‘ready’ to the other three. “And it goes a little something like this.”

Fujigaya whined plaintively into his microphone, but Kawai continued on like nothing was wrong, and he sounded stupid singing the lower part by itself, so really Fujigaya had no choice but to join in, pulling annoyed faces the entire time. “Kimi to CONNECTION” was an entirely embarrassing junior song, about friendship and running towards your dreams and all that crap, from back when Fujigaya had believed in all of that and had a best friend to run towards his dreams with. It was hard not to get into it just a little, though, especially with Kawai right beside him, his voice matching Fujigaya’s just as well as it ever had and obviously still believing in that sort of stuff with his whole heart. Some of the audience still knew the words to sing along even, making their friends look at them in obvious judgement, but Accel’s fans didn’t tend to care about that, much like Accel themelves.

Kitayama was loitering off to the side while the song went on, her face saying that she was enjoying herself immensely and that Senga and Tamamori were going to hear about it in great detail. Kawai motioned her over to join them in the middle of the stage.

“I cannot wait to get this shit off the internet,” Kitayama said in an undertone to Fujigaya when she was close enough. “I am going to download that SO HARD.” And when Fujigaya only grumbled a half-hearted, “Your mom,” Kitayama agreed that she would probably send it to her mother as well.

“So, this is the mysterious fourth member of Sunshine?” Kawai asked, looking Kitayama up and down with a lot less derision than he’d had for Fujigaya’s look. “Taipi, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that’s a girl.”

“Believe me, I’ve noticed,” Fujigaya said, then gritted his teeth when Kawai cracked up at his unintended implications. “Not like that!”

“Why not?” Totsuka leaned over Kawai’s shoulder to use his mic, looking a bit himself. “She looks like she’s worth noticing.”

“Finally, a gentleman,” Kitayama leaned over to use Fujigaya’s mic the same way, and Fujigaya yanked his mic away when the crowd catcalled in interest. Their interest rose in pitch when Kitayama blew a kiss and Totsuka mimed catching it and pressing it to his heart like a shy fanboy getting a favor from his favorite idol.

“Are you guys trying to get us fired?” he demanded. “Geez, we came all the way out here to see you and everything. Wouldn’t you guys rather hear them play some more songs?” he asked the crowd, hoping to get this entire situation back on track.

They called yes, and Kawai gave in easily, waving Fujigaya and Kitayama backstage. “We’re almost done, three more songs, so just hang out, okay? We’ll definitely go out after.”

Kitayama was reluctant to go the whole way back to Accel’s ready area, loitering in the hallway to keep listening until Fujigaya pointed out that the staff kept having to step around them.

“Ah, sorry,” she said, bowing to the tech who’d just nearly tripped over a string of taped cords, but he waved off her apology. “You’re right, let’s go. It’s just that, I can’t exactly buy their album and listen to it anytime I want, you know.”

“Are you a fan?” Fujigaya found himself asking as they worked their way back, around other staff and equipment. “Is this your kind of thing?”

“Why do you sound so surprised?” Kitayama asked. “Sure I’ve been an idol a long while, but it’s not like that’s the only thing to know about me. Is that really so shocking?”

“It’s that I can’t figure you out at all,” Fujigaya said in frustration, relieved when they finally cleared the narrow hallway and he could turn to talk to Kitayama directly. “When you were in the president’s office, I thought you were his new secretary!”

“You though…” Kitayama blinked, then started snickering. “Like Yamamoto? Oh my god, what.”

“And then the next time in the club, you were one of those girls,” Fujigaya went on. Kitayama raised an eyebrow, but it only made him scowl harder. “You know what kind of girl I mean, and you acted the whole part, why shouldn’t I believe that was who you were? But you’re way smarter than you let on, aren’t you? And you fit in here, too, so which is it? Who are you really? Am I keep going to be confronted with new Kitayamas one after the other, the whole time you’re here? It’s exhausting!”

Kitayama gave a little sigh. “The thing is…you’re totally easy to read, you know?”

“So what?!” Fujigaya demanded, hands balling into fists. “Why do you keep saying that like it’s something terrible?!”

“No, I mean,” Kitayama tried to explain, “I could see right away, you were angry I was there, which I get, really, but that you saw me as a rival, somebody you had to prove that you didn’t need. It wasn’t like I wanted to fight with you. As soon as I made you think I was just some stupid girl, some pretty face with nothing underneath like you expected, then you eased up.”

Fujigaya opened his mouth to retort, but nothing came out. She was exactly right; as soon as he hadn’t seen her as worth fighting against, he’d just gone on about his business, hoping vaguely that she’d get left behind.

“So I’m sorry about tricking you,” Kitayama said, and she did look guilty about it, not that it made the feelings squirming in Fujigaya’s chest any less unpleasant. “I thought if I just had a little time, you’d get used to me and see that I could help you out. But I’m not that good of an actress, honestly, so it was hard for me to keep it up even a little while. Look, are you mad? I deserve it if you are,” she folded her arms, frowning, “but the last few days, it was better when we could at least work together, right? You don’t have to love me or anything, if it’s just work, I’m satisfied with that.”

“I don’t know,” Fujigaya said honestly, no idea how to sort out the mess of the last two weeks now that he knew all of this. “Let me think about it.”

“Okay,” Kitayama agreed, and then they found Accel’s ready room and waited for them without saying anything else. Fujigaya tried to distract himself by checking mails on his phone, but he was barely seeing the words on his screen, distracted every time Kitayama shifted on the couch or yawned.

Crazy Accel bursting into the room, sweat-soaked and lit up with concert adrenaline, was a welcome distraction, and Fujigaya was glad to lose himself in Kawai’s non-stop chatter. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Totsuka and Kitayama introducing themselves to each other properly. By the time the whole group headed out in search of a family restaurant, Totsuka and Kitayama had switched hats, Totsuka’s fedora low over Kitayama’s eyes and Kitayama’s cap set at a jaunty angle on Totsuka’s hair.

They lingered late at the restaurant, full and daring each other to order ridiculous desserts that nobody had any appetite for, chatting about music and guitars and how Tsukada had broken his stool really, Kawai’s charmingly ugly laugh carrying across the whole place from the corner they were tucked in.

“Doesn’t your manager have a curfew?” Fujigaya asked eventually, eyeing how Hashimoto was tucked close into Goseki’s side and stealing Tsukada’s fries in the least stealthy manner possible.

Kawai waved a vague hand, fading adrenaline making him a bit vague and philosophical. “She’s out of high school, it’s fiiine.”

“Like she graduated?” Fujigaya prompted for details. “Or like she just stopped going?”

“Mm, not sure, actually,” Kawai shrugged, making Fujigaya slap his forehead. “But she’s an awesome manager. She’s the one who got us this gig! She just tells people what she wants them to do, and they do it! She’s magic. Long live Hasshi-manager!”

Hashimoto smiled benignly at Crazy Accel as they all clinked their glasses together in her honor, as if it was only her due.

“We are so getting tabloided for staying out all night with underage girls,” Fujigaya said to Kitayama, who only snorted into her soda straw. She was still working on a parfait that Totsuka had ordered and had eaten all of three bits of before pushing it her way. Fujigaya felt like he was going to puke if he ate one more thing, but Kitayama was still going strong, making faces of pleasure at each mouthful that made Fujigaya squirm a little and have to look away.

When they did finally leave, it was freezing outside, and Fujigaya and Kitayama’s run to make last train only warmed them up for the few minutes it took to find their platform and grab a pair of seats on the train. They sat as close as they could, shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh, out of necessity.

“Don’t read into it, it’s just so I won’t catch hypothermia,” Fujigaya warned, inching even closer against Kitayama’s relative warmth.

“First of all, you can’t catch that, and secondly, as if,” Kitayama informed him. Her eyes were drooping before they were even at the next station, though, and it wasn’t long before her head was heavy on Fujigaya’s shoulder, her breathing even.

Fujigaya didn’t make any attempt to move her or wake her up, leaning his own head back against the window and watching the stations click by on the digital display. He felt heavy with exhaustion but not at all sleepy, head too full of Kitayama’s revelations and his own confused feelings. Kitayama wasn’t making it any less confusing by sighing cutely in her sleep and smelling vaguely of strawberries and fried food.

It was a strangely appealing combination. Maybe Sunshine could market that as a product tie-in, Sunshine’s signature scent.

Their station eventually was next, and Fujigaya felt reluctant to shake Kitayama awake, but it couldn’t be helped.

“Hm?” she asked, eyes opening just enough to show how dark brown they were as she blinked up at Fujigaya. “Tiiired.”

“It’s our stop, come on,” Fujigaya said, jostling her a little more and trying to ignore the way his heart seemed unable to keep a steady rhythm when she only curled in against him more tightly, whining and brushing her cold nose against his neck. The touch made him shiver all the way down, and he slid away quickly, reaching up to rub the feel of it away.

Kitayama rubbed at her eyes and stood when Fujigaya did, stumbling after him like a sleepy child until they stepped off the train and the cold slapped them in the face again.

“Fuck,” she cursed, wrapping her arms around herself. “What moron said we shouldn’t take jackets? Come on, let’s run.”

“What moron?” Fujigaya demanded with a roll of his eyes, but Kitayama had already taken off, only slowing down to go through the turnstile, and Fujigaya had no choice but to try and keep up as best he could. Kitayama was surprisingly fast for her size, and Fujigaya was not an athlete, so by the time he huffed and puffed his way up behind Kitayama, Kitayama already had the door open and was waiting impatiently, hopping up and down a little, breath steaming in the air.

“How can you go so fast with those stubby little legs?” he bitched in between wheezes, but Kitayama only laughed and held the door open. Fujigaya looked down and noticed a string of digits that he hadn’t before, scribbled along the inside of Kitayama’s arm. “What’s that?”

“That?” Kitayama looked down, then shrugged. “It’s Totsuka’s number. He asked if he could take me out sometime.”

A spike of jealousy drove all the air out of Fujigaya’s lungs for a second, not that he’d had much air in them to start with. It kept his hands cold long after he’d come into the house, eyes on Kitayama’s retreating back as she tossed a sleepy goodnight over her shoulder and disappeared into her room.

“Stop feeling like that,” he ordered himself, but it didn’t help. He didn’t have any more success trying to wash the feeling off with hot water in the shower, either. It was as if he could still feel Kitayama’s warmth against his side, the spot her nose had brushed on his neck, no matter how hot he turned the water up or how firmly he scrubbed with his loofah.

When he finally gave up and crawled into bed, dragging the covers over his head, Fujigaya was forced to admit to himself at least, that he might be at least a little bit in love with Sunshine’s mysterious fourth member.

Not that he had any intention of telling her that.

5) You kissed for real?!

For a few days after he realized how he felt about Kitayama, Fujigaya spent all his time waiting for the other shoe to fall, for his bandmates to call him out on his obvious feelings, for Kitayama to look right through him as she sometimes did. Once or twice he’d looked up to find Kitayama staring at him in an even and thoughtful way, and been sure that’s what she was about to do, but each time she only nodded at him and went back to whatever she was doing.

In the end, it was Senga who read him the most easily.

“You’ve been weird all week,” Senga said, sitting on the edge of Fujigaya’s bed without invitation and swinging his feet. He’d come in without knocking while Fujigaya was working at his desk and sat down, and now was watching Fujigaya expectantly.

“Ken-chan, I’m working,” Fujigaya tried to brush him off. “Maybe later, okay?”

“Wouldn’t you work a lot better if you told me what was bugging you so much?” Senga coaxed, totally well-versed in Fujigaya’s methods of avoidance, damn him. “Come on, you’ll feel better.”

“How do you even do that?” Fujigaya demanded, dropping his pencil and turning to face Senga squarely.

“I read your aura,” Senga said seriously, reaching over as if palming the air around him, making ‘hmm I see’ noises. He broke down into giggles when Fujigaya glared at him, and dropped his hands. “I just know you, okay? You’ve been quiet, and you aren’t bitching at Tama or Hiro nearly as much as usual, and when Yokoo-san comes by to pressure you, you just take it.” He lifted his hands to say, see, easy. “So it must be pretty serious.”

“I don’t know,” Fujigaya lied, even though it wasn’t like Senga wouldn’t be able to see that he was lying. “I’ve been thinking about what we’re going to do from here on out.”

“See, that part was true,” Senga said with approval. “Us? Sunshine?”

Fujigaya nodded, keeping his eyes on the carpet.

“Hiro too?” Senga asked. Fujigaya hesitated, then nodded again. “Good. I thought you’d be all a mess once you figured out you liked her.” Fujigaya jerked his head up to blink at Senga, eyes wide. Senga tutted. “Oh, is that all? You only just realized, huh.”

“A little bit ago.” Fujigaya shifted in his chair, uncomfortable talking about this out loud. He liked stewing in silence and feeling sorry for himself much better. He gave Senga a challenging look. “I’m not going to confess to her or anything ridiculous, so don’t even suggest it.”

“Haha,” Senga laughed, making Fujigaya frown harder. Senga held up his hands in surrender. “I wasn’t going to suggest that at all! You definitely shouldn’t do that.”

“Why not?” Fujigaya demanded, mutinous. “Is this reverse psychology?”

“Taipi,” Senga shook his head sadly, as if Fujigaya was a trainee who could barely hokey pokey. “Do you even know what our fans would do to Hiro if they thought you were actually dating her? But listen, I’ve got a plan. You should go on being mean to her.”

“I’m not being mean at all!” Fujigaya protested. “I defended her in front of the press and everything!”

“Yeah, stop doing that,” Senga advised. “Let her fend for herself, she can take it. And you be all long-suffering about being paired up with her, and make faces and be all grumpy…right, like that face there.”

“I’m not making a face!” Fujigaya snapped. Senga reached over to pat his knee. “How is this even a plan?”

“Underdog effect!” Senga announced, triumphant. “See, if it seems like you’re kind of giving her a hard time, the fans will start to root for her, they’ll want her to win you over because they already think of you as grumpy prince-type. It’s playing right into their fantasy, that they could win you over, so they’ll totally associate with Hiro. Like when you play dating sims and after a while you really start to root for the main character, get it? It’s transference.”

“Have you been watching late night television again?” Fujigaya asked critically. “That relationship expert guy? I’m telling Watta on you.”

“Shut up! This is totally going to work!” Senga insisted. “Once they’ve decided you could be a pairing, all you have to do is make eye contact once in a while to keep them going, and Hiro will be totally in with them.” Senga beamed at Fujigaya. “So I’m sorry, but you definitely can’t confess to Hiro.”

“Seriously get out of my room right now,” Fujigaya ordered, pointing at his door.

“It’s for the good of the group, Taipi,” Senga said earnestly.

“OUT!”

Mostly Fujigaya just tried to keep his head down and hoped it would be a fleeting crush. He’d had crushes before, on co-stars or showmates or whoever was around conveniently, but they were usually short-lived. Fujigaya’s attention was always re-absorbed by work sooner or later, usually sooner, and most people couldn’t stand for very long in Fujigaya’s personal magnetic field of type-A polarity.

Kitayama Hiromi, unfortunately, was not most people. She never got worked up when Fujigaya shouted about things not being done properly, only stared calmly while Fujigaya cursed at his notebook or phone or computer, whatever was being annoying at the moment, and never once asked if practice was over yet no matter how late Fujigaya kept them.

The only time she got fired up at all was when Fujigaya dared suggest she wasn’t putting as much effort as she could.

“You want to tell me how you think I could do better?” she demanded, hands on her hips and eyes narrow.

“By doing it better?” Fujigaya suggested, and Senga and Tamamori both shuffled back a little because they had both learned it was better not to get in the middle of those two. Fujigaya glared at her as fiercely as possible, but it didn’t at all have the same effect as when he glared at Senga or Tamamori.

Hiromi only stared right back, unimpressed. “You know you aren’t very threatening with your bangs in a palm tree, right? It’s just that if you want me to take you seriously…”

“I want you to take practice seriously!” Fujigaya snapped back, fingers twitching, but he forced his hands to stay down because he sure wasn’t taking out his palm tree just for Kitayama fucking Hiromi.

“Well, if I had somehow magically known that it was going to be this particular song that was gonna send you into one of your breakdowns, I would have stayed here and practiced it yesterday,” Kitayama informed him, crossing her arms. “But instead I stayed and practiced the two things you said we were gonna work on, and I didn’t have time for all the things because you kept us here until, what was it? Midnight.”

“Sorry I cut into your twelve-hour a night sleeping habit!”

“Guys, come on,” Senga tried to cut in, but he didn’t actually come out from behind where Kitayama was basically shielding them. Tamamori looked at him like he was crazy.

“Oh, just let them go, I need a break anyway,” Tamamori advised, rubbing at one of his shoulders. “They’ll work it out of their systems eventually.”

“Uh…” Senga side-eyed the way Kitayama and Fujigaya kept inching closer to yell in each other’s faces, clearly not agreeing. “Wait, I think I can fix it though.”

Senga gave Fujigaya a big, encouraging smile and two big thumbs up; Fujigaya’s mouth snapped shut like he’d received an electric shock.

“Forget it, never mind,” he grumbled at Kitayama, staring at the ground, and then he went back to his corner as fast as possible. Kitayama turned around to look at Senga, eyes narrow.

“What was that?” Tamamori asked, face scrunched in confusion.

“Shut up,” Senga hissed, giving Kitayama an innocent look and a shrug, “I’ll tell you later.”

The hell of it was that Senga’s plan did actually seem to work. Fujigaya did his best to keep his distance for their next few appearances, to let Kitayama fend for herself for better or worse, and not censoring himself very much when he found Kitayama’s stage presence or costume or height lacking. It was certainly working on Yokoo, if nothing else.

“Why is it so impossible for you to get along with people?” Yokoo commented after yet another planning meeting where he physically had to separate Fujigaya and Kitayama’s seats so that nobody got a black eye over the setlist. He didn’t even sound angry, just resigned, like an elementary school teacher whose class never did remember to shut the lid to the hamster cage properly. “Didn’t your mother let you play with the other kids enough? Were you home-schooled or something?”

“I get along with normal people fine!” Fujigaya snapped, although all it took was one sharp look from Yokoo to make Fujigaya back down and shove his hands in his pockets. Or try to; his jeans were honestly too tight for it to work. “She can take of herself, so why are you always on her side? She totally baited me in there, you saw it.”

“You even just said ‘she started it,’ wow.” Yokoo shook his head, so sadly.

“And anyway, I’m only doing what Ken-chan…” Fujigaya stopped himself, realizing that Yokoo knowing about Senga’s plan would necessitate him knowing about Fujigaya’s feelings for Kitayama, or at least the feelings that weren’t about strangulation. He didn’t think Yokoo would approve, given how Yokoo felt in general about messy things.

“Ken-chan?” Yokoo prompted. Fujigaya hemmed and hawed, but Yokoo folded his arms and waited. They both knew he could long outlast Fujigaya.

“Ken-chan has this idea,” Fujigaya said cautiously, hoping he could give Yokoo enough information to appease him without telling him any of the actually important facts. “He thinks if I’m kind of…brusque with Kitayama, the fans will start to root for her.”

“Ken-chan gave you advice,” Yokoo repeated evenly. “And you took it?”

“Well, your advice was ‘stop making that face,’” Fujigaya pointed out.

“What have I told you about doing impressions of me?” Yokoo demanded, but he let the rest of it go, and Fujigaya heaved an internal sigh of relief.

Kityama was just as surprised as the rest of them when the next batch of fan letters included a small pile for her. She looked apprehensive while opening the first one, and stared at it much longer than any letter could possibly necessitate.

“Well?” Senga finally demanded, unable to wait any longer.

“What?” Kitayama looked up as if just realizing everyone was watching for her reaction. “Oh! It’s good, it’s good. I’m just a bit surprised. I guess I should have had more faith in Sunshine’s fans, right?”

“See, I told you,” Senga insisted, beaming proudly. Fujigaya hissed at him to shut up, but it was too late.

“Told him what?” Kitayama asked.

“Ken-chan told Taisuke to be mean to you on stage,” Yokoo informed her, rifling around in his bag to make sure none of the letters were lost in its depths. “He thought the fans would associate with you more if he abused you too.”

“Oh?” Kitayama said, while Fujigaya protested that he wasn’t abusing anybody, geez. “I see. Then what’s his excuse the rest of the time?”

“I’m NOT abusing anybody either on stage or off it!” Fujigaya roared, whacking Senga in the arm because Kitayama was across the table and this was all Senga’s fault anyway. Senga and Tamamori both pointed at Fujigaya in accusation.

“Abuse does imply that you don’t like it,” Yokoo commented, making both Senga pout and Tamamori scrunch his nose. Kitayama just laughed behind her next letter.

All of that Fujigaya could have probably made peace with, if it weren’t for the fact that Kitayama had gone out with Accel’s Totsuka three more times in the space of a few weeks. She had obviously been around this block before, and was smart about it, either meeting him somewhere where she already had reason to be for work, or else some place out of the way and late at night, where the odds of getting photographed were practically nothing. Aside from the fact that dates were actually occurring, Kitayma used enough good sense that not even Fujigaya could find much to argue about.

Not that it stopped him.

“I don’t like it!” he blustered, but Kitayama barely spared him a glance and a wave goodbye over her shoulder as she strolled out the door still putting in her earrings. Fujigaya turned to Senga instead. “I don’t like it!”

“I heard you the first time,” Senga said, barely looking up from his laptop. His chat program was chiming merrily away, and Fujigaya vowed silently that if Senga was cybering with his freako girlfriend while Fujigaya was sitting right there, he was going to put black hair dye in Senga’s shampoo.

“She could get photographed! And fired!”

Senga rolled his eyes. “Wouldn’t that make you happy?”

“No! I’ve spent the last two weeks writing parts for her in songs, she can’t get fired now!” Fujigaya argued. “Last time she stayed out all night!”

“You’re like her father or something, geez,” Senga said, typing quickly. “She’s a grown woman, she can stay out all night. Plus, all they did was go to a family restaurant and then do a million hours of karaoke.”

“You know, the sick thing is, I actually believe that, with her,” Fujigaya wrinkled his nose. “It probably does only take lots of food and some singing.” He paused. “How do you know what she stayed out all night doing?”

“Uh, because we talked about it?” Senga answered, leaving the “duh” to hang unspoken in the air. “We had girl time.”

“You’re not a girl!!” Fujigaya scoffed. “And she’s barely one! You might as well have girl time with Tama!”

“Who’s saying I don’t? Listen, Taipi.” Senga turned his attention away from his laptop to look Fujigaya in the eye. “Maybe you should just admit that you’re actually jealous.”

“I am not jealous,” Fujigaya insisted. “So maybe you tricked me into telling you I have some feelings or whatever, but I know a hell of a lot better than to date some hot mess in my band just because she’s a girl!”

“Uh-huh,” Senga said evenly. “I tricked you. Really.”

“With your wiles.” Fujigaya narrowed his eyes, peering at Senga. “You’re using your wiles on me right now, aren’t you? Admit it!”

“Have you ever been jealous before?” Senga asked, a bit of sympathy creeping into his expression. “Maybe you just don’t know what it feels like so you can’t identify it. What do you feel like right now? Tell Ken-chan-sensei where the funny feeling is.”

“I’m not jealous, I’m annoyed!” Fujigaya informed him, folding his arms and slumping back against the couch. He only glared harder when Senga felt his forehead and cheeks, tutting. “Stop that! It’s because your advice is terrible! And because Kitayama shouldn’t be giving it up to that weirdo from Fumito’s band!”

“But giving it up to other people would be okay?” Senga prompted.

“Yeah, I don’t know, sure.” Fujigaya bluffed, eyes low.

“Like who?”

“Like…” Fujigaya blew his bangs out of his face. “I don’t know! I don’t want to think about this!”

“Like you, you mean, right?” Senga shook his head at Fujigaya’s vehement protest. “Taipi, trust Ken-chan-sensei, that’s jealousy. You feel kind of itchy and warm when you think about it, right?”

“It’s a new sweater,” Fujigaya mumbled. “I haven’t washed it yet.”

“And you want to punch people?” Senga went on. Fujigaya said that was normal, though. “And the place it hurts is kind of like here, right?” Senga tapped over Fujigaya’s heart with two fingers, raising an eyebrow expectantly.

Fujigaya just gave up, slumping over with his head on Senga’s shoulder. “Fine, it’s jealousy. Now make it go away.”

“The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem,” Senga assured. “Trying to ignore it only makes it worse. If you like Hiro, of course you’ll be jealous. That’s natural.”

“This feels like a talk my mother gave me once,” Fujigaya said, nose smooshed against Senga’s shoulder, making his voice nasal and mutinous. “I already know what a condom does.”

“Aw, you’re finally becoming a man,” Senga cooed, laughing as Fujigaya shoved him away in disgust. “Honestly, it surprised me that all of this was over a girl anyway.”

“Why?” Fujigaya said, defensive. Senga eyed him evenly. “I like girls! I’ve dated girls before!”

“I did kind of think,” Senga scratched his nose, not meeting Fujigaya’s eyes, “that it was sort of a…front. You never seemed that into them!” he tried to defend himself over Fujigaya’s squawk of protest. “It wasn’t anything like this!”

“No kidding,” Fujigaya sighed. “Oi, don’t you dare tell anybody we talked about this.”

“Don’t worry, don’t worry,” Senga assured, tugging Fujigaya back over to lean against his shoulder again. “Ken-chan-sensei has doctor-patient confidentiality.”

It took a few days for the effects of their talk to sink in fully, but gradually Fujigaya realized that admitting that he was jealous and just letting himself feel that way was much less annoying than trying to fight against it. And even if he still did want to use some choice curse words every time he saw Kitayama laughing at a new mail, he could call Totsuka names in his head just as easily. Better names. Much more creative.

“My, you’ve been mild-mannered today,” Kitayama commented when they were packing up from morning practice. “Have you picked up meditation? Or is Yokoo-san just slipping anti-depressants into your coffee?”

“It’s just been really relaxing around the house since you’re always out with that trollop,” Fujigaya said loftily.

“Trollop?” Kitayama snorted. “I think technically I’m the trollop. I’m not sure you can be a male trollop.”

“Isn’t that a kind of mushroom?” Tamamori asked, but neither one of them turned.

“Hey, really?” Senga appeared suddenly against Kitayama’s side, nudging at her like he could make the details pop out with physical force. “Reeeally?”

“Mm,” Kitayama stalled a second, but then nodded. “Nn-hn.” Her smile was a bit shy and small, but real, and it made Fujigaya’s chest twist unpleasantly. He looked away, trying to focus his attention on packing up his guitar and ignore how warm his cheeks felt.

“Haha!” Senga hip-checked Kitayama gleefully. “That’s…” Senga glanced at Fujigaya, then seemed to catch himself. “I mean, you know, be careful and stuff.”

“I will,” Kitayama promised, elbowing Senga back. “But do you mean about being tabloided? Or–”

“Can’t you two discuss this during girl time?!” Fujigaya demanded, past his limit and then some. “I do have to look Tottsu in the face sometimes, you know!”

“Yeah, okay, okay,” Senga agreed right away. “Tama, girl time tonight!”

“Fine,” Tamamori sighed, like it was kind of a chore. “But this time it’s in your room because there’s still purple nail polish stuck in my carpet from last time.”

“Honestly, you people,” Fujigaya sighed, but he let Senga hug him and promise that he could have Leader time anytime he wanted.

Fujigaya’s tenuous good will lasted until they showed up to their next photoshoot and were informed that their next batch of member pairing rankings had just come in.

“Our what?” Kitayama asked, snorting.

“Fans vote on which pair of us they like best together,” Senga explained, looking actually sort of excited about it, even when Kitayama started laughing outright. “And then they take shots of us in pairs and fans can write in requests for our poses together.”

“Come on, really?” she asked, still snickering. “That’s too gay even for my old agency to do. That might be the gayest thing I’ve ever heard, and I share a wall with Tama-chan.”

“Hmph,” Tamamori said from behind his phone. “See if you ever get asked to join in.” Yokoo whacked the back of his head and Tamamori whined that Yokoo had just made him send his mail half-written. “Nooo, come back, mail-san!”

“Don’t laugh,” Fujigaya told Kitayama. “Our world is your world now, and there’s no telling what fans’ll want us to do with you.”

“Taipi,” Senga admonished when Kitayama’s nose wrinkled. “Don’t be hurt if your pairings are ranked pretty low at first, okay? It takes a while to show each combi’s appeal. Tama used to come in last all the time.”

“Fans don’t understand my appeal,” Tamamori sniffed, but it still sounded mostly like he was talking to his phone.

“But he got super competitive about it and campaigned with Taipi in front of the fans last tour,” Senga went on explaining. “So last month they got first, actually. I’ll have to work harder!”

“Campaigned?” Kitayama asked. “How do you even campaign for something like that?”

The other three just stared at her.

“Wait, never mind.” Kitayama made a face. “I get it, I get it.”

Staff came in just then to deliver the results, and Fujigaya sat up a little straighter. It wasn’t like he really cared which two of them were getting the most doujinshi that month or whatever, but his sense of competition didn’t seem to care how stupid the actual competition was so long as he won it.

“A bit of a shake up this month,” one of the girls said, and Fujigaya didn’t like at all the way they were giggling as they elbowed each other. “With the new member, that puts us up to six possible pairs, and you’ll need a third page from now on if we’re to show each pair’s charms properly.”

“Don’t go to any trouble,” Fujigaya said under his breath, but it only made the girls giggle that it was no trouble at all, trust them.

“In sixth place, Tamamori and Kitayama!” the first girl read, sounding officious. Tamamori pressed his lips together but Kitayama patted his shoulder and said they’d try harder next time. “Fifth is Senga and Kitayama.”

“Aww, you dragged me back down again,” Senga whined, despite his earlier advice not to be hurt about it. Kitayama patted his head.

“We’ll just have to campaign this month,” Kitayama said, and Senga gave a little cheer.

“Fourth place is Senga and Fujigaya,” she continued, pausing while Fujigaya and Senga hi-fived across the table. “And now for top 3! In third place, moving up one spot, is Tamamori and Fujigaya!”

“Only one!” Tamamori made a face, but he accepted Fujigaya’s offered fistbump. “Next month! Gaya, we are gonna own this ranking yet!”

“Okay, okay,” Fujigaya replied, amiable.

“Second, dropping one spot, is Senga and Tamamori combi.”

“Yay!” Senga hugged Tamamori tight around the waist, making Tamamori roll his eyes but smile a little.

“Hey,” Kitayama said, “wait a second.”

“Oh NO,” Fujigaya groaned.

“Debuting in the first place spot,” the staff girl read with obvious glee, “is the popular Fujigaya and Kitayama pair! Congratulations, you two! The fans were very passionate.”

“We have quite a stack of requests,” the other girl put in, not even trying to hide her laughter.

“Come on!” Fujigaya let his head slump over the back of the chair in defeat, arms dangling loosely. “Tama, this is all your fault! If you had more sex appeal–”

“Maybe they just like that your hair matches,” Tamamori shot back, pride stung at losing first place yet again.

“Okay, that’s enough of that, let’s get on with this,” Yokoo ordered, shooing them out of their chairs and ignoring Tamamori and Fujigaya’s whining. Senga hopped up right away, dragging Kitayama along by the arm and chattering about what pose they could do to introduce their pairing’s style to the fans for the first time.

They settled on a perfectly serviceable wink shot; Kitayama was a bit startled when the staff ordered them to squish their faces close together, but went along with it. Beside Fujigaya, Tamamori clicked his tongue and said this was going to definitely be a struggle from now on with this sort of competition.

“Lemme show you how it’s done,” Fujigaya said, just before he grabbed Tamamori around the waist and pulled their hips flushed together.

“Hey! What?!” Tamamori flailed, eyes wide, which is exactly when the camera snapped. Fujigaya let go with a smirk; let anybody’s combi top that action.

“Awww,” Senga called, deserting Kitayama right away. “My turn with Leader! Out of the way, Tama.”

“YOU CAN HAVE HIM,” Tamamori blustered, cheeks pink and scuttling over to try and hide behind Kitayama as fast as he could.

“Che, you only call me Leader when you’re buttering me up,” Fujigaya said, shaking his head, but he let Senga work his way under his arm and lay his head cutely on Fujigaya’s shoulder.

“Hush, you’re Leader all the time and you know it,” Senga said. Fujigaya reached up to scrunch his silly perm and the staff girls all started cooing. “You’ll get spoiled if we call you that too much. You’ll get a big head and leave us for solo work where you can date girls.”

“Oi, don’t say that sort of crap,” Fujigaya shushed him in return. His eyes strayed over to Tamamori an Kitayama, who were making their duo pose a sight-gag about their heigh difference.

“Shit, Tama’s getting really serious,” Senga laughed. “We won’t lose to them, right?” He leaned up to kiss Fujigaya’s cheek noisily, and Fujigaya had no doubts at all which of their shots was going to make it in the magazine.

“Senga-kun and Tamamori-kun!” the other girl called, and then ordered, “Piggy-back ride, please,” which had apparently been the most frequent fan request. Tamamori just took it, although he rolled his eyes a little, but Senga seemed happy enough to wrap arms around Tamamori’s neck and cling tightly as Tamamori hefted him up.

“Wow, high!” Senga said, teasing. “Don’t drop me, senpai~.”

“Shut up, quit squirming,” Tamamori ordered, not a heavy lifter at the best of times. “Ugh, you weigh a fucking ton! Are you following your approved diet list at all?!”

“We have quite a few interesting requests from fans,” the first staff girl said, her smile way sharper than Fujigaya was at all comfortable with. “We’ll be doing several different ones, since as number one pair you get a whole page to yourself.” She held up a thick stack of papers, and Fujigaya reached over to grab them before she could start reading them off.

“We’ll pick them,” Fujigaya said quickly. He glanced at the top one and grimaced, while beside him, Kitayama’s eyes went wide. “Our agency definitely wouldn’t let us do that in a magazine.”

“I’m pretty sure nobody’s allowed to do that in a magazine,” Kitayama said, face scrunched. Fujigaya flipped through a few more. “Or that. Does that say ‘age twelve?!’”

“Our fans are precocious,” Fujigaya informed her, and it wasn’t really a compliment.

They settled on jankenpon, poking each other’s cheeks, and leaning their backs together as the most innocuous options. Staff insisted on a few others that had been very popular requests, specifically them looking annoyed with each other, and also holding hands.

“No,” Fujigaya balked at the last one. “I am not holding her hand like we’re on a third-grade date.”

“It’s non-negotiable,” they were informed, the staff women clearly meaning business. Fujigaya whined a bit, but was clearly not going to get his way on this one.

“Just suck it up, aren’t you a professional?” Kitayama asked. “Like holding hands is the worst thing we saw on those cards.” She shivered. “Hurry up before they think of something else.”

Looking irritated at each other was harder to do on cue than Fujigaya would have supposed, especially since he felt entirely irritated. It turned out, however, that the staff actually meant more like “look like you’re about to throw each other against the wall and give into your base desires.”

“Try grabbing each other’s shirts,” the staff woman suggested, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “Hmm.”

“I’m not comfortable with that,” Fujigaya protested, Kitayama’s T-shirt a little too snug to make any of it a safe zone.

“Kitayama-san, grab Fujigaya’s shirt then. Yes, both handfuls.” She sighed at them. “Can’t you look angrier?”

Kitayama could, it turned out, but when she fixed narrowed, kohl-smudged eyes on Fujigaya, Fujigaya’s breath caught and he couldn’t control what his face was doing at all, or do anything but hope that Kitayama couldn’t feel the way his heart was pounding with her hands so close to his chest. It only lasted a few seconds though before Kitayama’s expression melted into a sort of exasperated resignation.

“You really can’t do it, huh?” she asked, and the staff seemed to agree because they told them to hang on while they thought of something else.

“No, wait, I can. One second, please!” he called to the staff, and then closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, Kitayama’s usual vague strawberry scent a lot stronger with her so close, the heat of her hands working her way through Fujigaya’s shirt to his skin.

Then he thought about Totsuka standing this close to Kitayama, Kitayama wearing Totsuka’s hat and putting her earrings on as she rushed out the door to meet him, Kitayama laughing quietly at the mails he kept sending to her phone, Kitayama and Totsuka pressed close together, and instead of trying to push all of that down and bury it someplace deeper inside, Fujigaya gave in and let all of those feelings out, let them wash over him in a hot, infuriating wave.

He opened his eyes suddenly and grabbed Kitayama’s wrists tightly. For a second, her eyes went wide, before she snapped out of it and put her own glare back on.

“Quick!” the one staff woman ordered, and then there was a flurry of clicks from the camera. As soon as they subsided, Fujigaya let go of Kitayama like he’d been burned and escaped as quickly as he could, claiming that he needed some water.

He fled to the bathroom and splashed some water on his face, willing his cheeks to cool. Stupid, he told himself, so stupid to let yourself get out of control over one damn shot for the stupid pairing rankings. He took a few slow, deep breaths, and a couple minutes later, felt that he could come back out and face staff without making an even bigger fool of himself.

When Fujigaya emerged, Kitayama was leaning against the wall with arms folded, obviously waiting for him.

“We haven’t done the hand-holding yet,” she reminded, looking him over coolly. “Want to tell me what that was about?”

“No,” Fujigaya said honestly, “I’d rather not, if it’s all the same.” He made to walk past Kitayama, but Kitayama grabbed his wrist, fingers tight and warm against his skin. It made Fujigaya shiver, and he had to close his eyes against it. “Let go.”

“Tell me what’s going on with you,” Kitayama ordered, not letting go at all. “I don’t know how you think you’re going to keep hiding it, when we have to keep doing stuff like this. Whatever it is, can’t we just talk about it?”

“I don’t think we should,” Fujigaya answered, trying to pull his hand away, but Kitayama clung to him stubbornly. “Look, just trust me, it’s better this way.”

“What’s better this way?” Kitayama demanded, getting frustrated. “This? This is not better this way at all, and crying out loud will you just look at me?”

Fujigaya opened his eyes and did, and it was entirely a mistake because now Kitayama was properly angry, the difference all in the glitter of her dark eyes and the tense set of her mouth. Before Fujigaya knew was he was doing he’d turned and pushed her against the wall of the hallway, pinning the hand that she’d been holding onto him with against the wall by the wrist.

“Don’t go out with that guy anymore,” he growled. Kitayama struggled, but Fujigaya shoved back, pinning her in place.

“Tottsu?” Kitayama asked, and even the nickname in her mouth made Fujigaya want to fight somebody. “What’s it to you? Why?”

“Because you should be mine.”

Kitayama’s eyes went very wide, but Fujigaya didn’t see anything else because he was leaning in to crush their mouths together, still holding her tight against the wall. It was the opposite of their first kiss, Kitayama frozen while Fujigaya made all the effort, dizzy with the warm, glossed slide of Kitayama’s lips against his own. He licked at her lower lip to get more of the strawberry taste, and Kitayama’s mouth parted under his with a small noise.

He pulled back suddenly, breaking the kiss, chest heaving. Kitayama looked much the same, the surprise fading from her eyes but something else filling them, something dark and heated.

“So don’t go out with that guy anymore,” Fujigaya said gruffly. “Got it?”

“Okay,” Kitayama agreed seriously. “Fine.”

“Fine,” Fujigaya echoed, nodded like that was exactly what he’d expected instead of pretty much the very last thing he expected, and then he turned on his heel and marched back out to the photoshoot so that it would be over as quickly as possible. Fortunately the staff hadn’t seemed to even notice their absence, since Tamamori and Senga were fooling around cutely, providing them with plenty of off-shot material.

The hand-holding pose could not have possibly been more embarrassing. Fujigaya stuck out his hand and looked in the other direction, knowing he couldn’t do a single thing about how grumpy and flushed and uncomfortable his face looked and that they were both going to get yelled at and told to do something even more ridiculous.

Kitayama’s hand slipped into his, her fingers warm, and his closed around hers reflexively.

“Oh honestly,” the staff woman sighed in exasperation, “that’s no good at all! Can’t you two just–”

“No, wait,” the other staff member interrupted. “Take it, just like that.”

“What?” The first woman clicked her tongue. “They aren’t even looking at each other!”

“Exactly, it’s totally cute, isn’t it?” the second staff woman explained. “They look like they’re on a really awkward first date, don’t they? Everybody’s had a date like that. Where you really like each other but can’t express your feelings properly, and everything turns out all a mess. Take it, trust me. We don’t get a side of Fujigaya-kun that the fans can relate to so easily very often.”

Fujigaya managed to hold it together long enough for the cameras to snap and the blasted women to finally call thanks for their hard work. He’d never been more glad to escape to the changing room and strip off his itchy photo shoot clothing.

His hand was still warm where Kitayama had been clutching it, his fingers tingling strangely, and when he pulled his shirt off, there were bright pink marks around his wrist.

6) She is mine

True to her word, Kitayama quietly ended things with Totsuka after the incident at the pairing photoshoot. Fujigaya neither knew nor cared to know what she had told Totsuka, and the only thing he heard about it afterwards was a mail from Kawai saying that Fujigaya never could share his toys and that he was no fun at all.

All that concerned Fujigaya was that Kitayama stopped going out with other people and staying out all night, and he was satisfied with just that.

“Just that?” Tamamori asked, skeptical. “Come on, be serious. Even Miyacchi makes it to second base once in a while.”

“You think second base is doing it,” Fujigaya said without looking up from the schedule.

“I have fewer bases than girls!” Tamamori replied defensively, then complained to mug-san that everybody picked on him.

It wasn’t as if Fujigaya wasn’t interested in getting to whatever bases Kitayama had, it was just that for the moment things seemed stable, and Fujigaya was not very anxious to disturb that stability. Having to avert his eyes sometimes when Kitayama danced in front of the mirrors and waking up rock-hard from the occasional questionable dream (sometimes also involving the mirrors) was a small price to pay for not worrying whether they were all going to be fired on a daily basis.

He had enough to keep him busy anyway, wrapping up the last few songs for the new album and starting to record, plus then there was the other project Domoto had called him in for suddenly.

“Alone?” Fujigaya asked when Yokoo told him where and when he had to show up for the meeting. “What’s that about? Should I be worried?”

“I have no details.” Yokoo shrugged. “It seems like just a small side project, though, something the president doesn’t think will take up much of your time.”

“Like Kitayama’s solo?” Fujigaya asked, voice crisp. Yokoo only remarked that he hoped Fujigaya wasn’t planning on taking that attitude in with him when he talked to Domoto.

As it turned out, Fujigaya was not alone at the meeting after all; when he pushed the door open, he found an older woman sitting in the chair in front of Domoto’s desk. She was well-dressed in a beige blazer and skirt, her legs crossed demurely, and she looked vaguely familiar when she turned to see Fujigaya entering.

“Ah, here he is,” President Domoto said, motioning Fujigaya forward. “May I introduce Fujigaya Taisuke, one of our most talented and promising talents here in my agency. Fujigaya-kun, this is Kamenashi Kazue.”

“Ah, I thought you looked familiar,” Fujigaya said, offering a polite enough bow. Kamenashi Kazue had been a popular singer some years ago, and his mother had liked her enough to make him and his brothers watch if she was on television. Fujigaya remembered her as being very glamorous, and she still was quite pretty, but he could see the years she had spent in the industry in the lines gathered around the corners of her eyes and mouth. “My mother is a fan of yours. We used to watch you on the New Years’ song battles.”

“How nice!” Kamenashi smiled, looking pleased. “I was quite popular in my youth, and not just with the women.” She winked, and Fujigaya had to struggle to keep his polite smile in place.

“Now now, Kamenashi-san,” the president cut in smoothly. “You still have many loyal fans today, I’m sure. And idol would be proud to have the career that you do.”

“Please, call me Kazue,” Kamenashi said, turning her smile towards the president.

“Kazue-chan, then,” president Domoto agreed, smiling warmly back.

“Was there something you wanted, President?” Fujigaya asked, hoping to get out of here without enduring very much more middle-aged flirting.

“Kame–Kazue-chan,” the president corrected himself, “will be re-releasing an anniversary single in a few months, and she has asked for you personally to adjust the arrangement.”

“I feel a bit out of touch with younger fans these days,” Kamenashi explained, her eyes widening a little, as if she were a bit helpless. Fujigaya felt like she was trying to play on his chivalry, but honestly it was just making him uncomfortable. “All of your songs seem so popular, I hear them on the radio quite a bit. I was hoping you could help give this single a bit of an update.”

“Um.” Fujigaya glanced at President Domoto, trying to judge whether he was entirely behind this or simply humoring an acquaintance in the business. “Er, I am quite busy writing our third album at the moment, so Sunshine is my top priority.”

“I understand it’s going quite well,” the president said briskly. “You’ve begun to record, haven’t you? I think the timeline has enough flexibility to allow a small project like this. And it will be good publicity with Kazue-chan’s fans, who aren’t exactly your target demographic. Networking is an important part of the business too, Fujigaya-kun. I’m surprised you haven’t learned that lesson already.”

“Well, I have you to take care of that, president,” Fujigaya said, his laugh not quite as honest as Domoto and Kamenashi’s.

“I’ll have my agent send you the song as it is now immediately. I’m staying in town for promotional activities for the next few weeks,” Kamenashi said, pulling out a business card. “This is the hotel I will be staying at. My cell phone number is also written on it. Please feel free to contact me at any time about your progress.”

Fujigaya took the card with both hands and gave another little bow. “Thank you. I’ll do my best to update your song in a way that preserves its original spirit.”

“You are a polite one,” Kamenashi said, eyeing him casually in a way that Fujigaya didn’t care for so much, her smirk saying she found him adorable. “Please feel free to stop by in person as well, any time you like.”

“I will,” Fujigaya agreed, thinking no way in hell. He bowed again and pled a full schedule, and President Domoto waved him out of the office. Fujigaya didn’t hang around and ask twice.

When he met up with the others for recording that afternoon, they were curious about his meeting, and even more curious when he revealed that it had to do with Kamenashi Kazue. Fujigaya explained as tersely as possible, not really wanting to think about the whole thing until the song materials arrived and he had to.

“Can we stop talking about it?” he finally asked directly when Senga kept pestering him with questions about Kamenashi. “She gave me the creeps.”

“You really do have some kind of lady complex, don’t you,” Kitayama commented from the side, where she’d been listening quietly to the story. Senga and Tamamori nodded, then looked innocent when Fujigaya gave them the eye.

“None of these women are normal!” Fujigaya protested. “She looked at me like I was a tasty snack on the dessert tray, ugh.”

“Well, I feel a little bad for her,” Kitayama said, making everyone else look at her in surprise. “She hasn’t been popular in ten years, and she’s obviously struggling to accept that. Having some hot young thing show her some attention is probably the most excitement she’s had in years, and she had to go to Domoto to even get that. In another fifteen or twenty years, we’ll all be the same. Imagine us depending on Fujigaya for our sense of self-worth.”

Senga’s expression immediately turned sympathetic as he looked Fujigaya over; Tamamori mainly looked puzzled as he scrunched his brow and tried to think about anything that far ahead.

Fujigaya just rolled his eyes. “You didn’t see it. She was creepy, I’m telling you.” Kitayama just shook her head sadly and said that someday they’d teach him human feelings.

“Maa, whatever.” Tamamori shook his head as if that would get rid of all the pesky future thoughts. “Miyacchi’ll still love me even if I’m old.”

“Awww, Tama-chan,” Senga said, “that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard you say about him.”

“What? No, I didn’t mean it like that,” Tamamori backpedaled, his brain catching up with his mouth. “I meant because he’s always dumb about me! And my fans hate me anyway! Oi, don’t mail him that, Ken-chan!”

Senga dodged Tamamori’s grab and hid behind Kitayama, phone already in his hand and giggling as he typed quickly. They played chase, using Kitayama and Fujigaya as terrain until Yokoo stuck his head out and said could they knock it off and get to work already, please?

Still, he could only set Kamenashi’s project aside for so long with the schedule that they had, so when they had an off day later that week, he decided just to give up the time to get it over with.

“Aww, you said you’d go shopping with me!” Senga pouted, leaning in Fujigaya’s doorway.

“Work first,” Fujigaya said, looking up only long enough to offer him an apologetic smile. “Somebody has to keep us in the president’s good graces. Next time, okay? You just want me to hold all the bags anyway.”

“It’s more that if you don’t come I have to ask Tama to drive,” Senga sighed.

“Did you say shopping?” Kitayama’s head popped up behind Senga’s shoulder. “I’ll go shopping with you, Ken-chan. I don’t mind driving.”

“You will?” Senga tilted his head back to grin. “Yay! Hey, but I thought you were busy today.”

“I had to cancel some plans.” Kitayama’s voice was neutral, but when Fujigaya was looking up, she was looking at him. She held his gaze a long second, and then turned to go. “Come on, get a hat or something. Or else put on a cooler shirt, if I’m going to be paparazzi’ed with you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my shirt!” Senga protested, but he trailed Kitayama obediently. Fujigaya’s door swung shut, and Fujigaya heaved a sigh of relief at finally being left alone. After a bit he heard Senga calling that he and Kitayama were going out, and Tamamori calling back, the slam of the front door, and the muffled roar of Kitayama’s car starting.

He worked through the next couple hours before he was satisfied with what he had. The song had been a good one, Fujigaya remembered it once he’d heard it, so it hadn’t taken too much work to give it more of an updated feel. It still played as a bit of a classic, but with a fanbase as old as Kamenashi’s, it didn’t pay to get too trendy. If it were a song Sunshine had to perform in front of their fans, Fujigaya wouldn’t be embarrassed to play it.

Standing up and stretching, Fujigaya decided to call Kamenashi and ask if he could drop off the song this afternoon, just to be done with it. The business card that Kamenashi had given him was buried under a scatter of half-written songs and folded-back notebooks, but eventually Fujigaya turned it up, wedged halfway under his laptop. He pulled his phone out and flipped it open, dialing quickly with his thumb. While it rang, he looked around and tried to remember where he’d last seen his keys.

“When was the last time I even drove…” he muttered to himself, then there was the click of the phone connection.

“Hello, this is Kamenashi,” Kamenashi’s voice came through, sounding a bit bored.

“Kamenashi-san, this is Fujigaya Taisuke,” Fujigaya said.

“Oh, Fujigaya-kun!” Kamenashi perked right up at the mention of his name, and Fujigaya cringed a little. “How is your work coming? Have you had the time to look at my song yet?”

“I’ve actually been working on it today, and I’ve made the changes you’ve asked for,” Fujigaya answered, trying to root around in his bag with one hand without dropping the phone. “I’m quite particular myself, so I think you’ll be satisfied with the results.”

“That’s wonderful! My, you are a diligent young man,” Kamenashi praised.

“It’s nothing, I just don’t like to put things off.” Fujigaya yanked his keys out from where they were wedged in the corner of his bag, grinning in triumph. “I’m on my way out just now, I could drop the materials off at your hotel if you’d like.”

“Why don’t you bring them up personally?” Kamenashi said. “I’ll order us up some coffee, it’s the least I can offer you for your trouble.”

Fujigaya hesitated, but it still just seemed easier to get it over with. And if he treated Kamenashi impolitely, President Domoto would take it right out of his hide, with pleasure. “All right, I can spare a little time.”

“It’s room 802,” Kamenashi told him. “I’ll be waiting, Fujigaya-kun.”

Snapping his phone shut, Fujigaya suppressed a shiver. He gathered up his packet of song materials to return, tucked the hotel’s business card into his pocket so that he would have the address to put in his car’s navigation system. On last thought, he grabbed the biggest hat he could find, because if he got photographed going into Kamenashi Kazue’s hotel, he was going to kill himself.

All joking aside, there did seem to be photographers hanging around outside the Kamenashi’s hotel. Fujigaya recognized a few regulars as he drove by, and decided parking in a garage a block away was a better choice. He tugged his hat down and strolled as casually as possible once he was back on the street, eyes peeled, and he managed to slip into the hotel beside a group of foreign tourists while the photographers were busy stubbing out their cigarettes.

When Fujigaya knocked on Kamenashi’s door, it opened almost right away, as if Kamenashi had been waiting right there for him.

“Nice to see you again, Kamenashi-san,” Fujigaya said, as politely as he could manage. He held out the large envelope with all the song materials inside. “Here’s your song. I hope you approve of the changes.”

“I trust your judgement,” Kamenashi said breezily, setting the envelope down on the nearby side table next to a vase of flowers nearly as big as Fujigaya. She steered Fujigaya towards the couch with a hand on his back, so that there was no way for Fujigaya to politely avoid doing what she wanted. Her hand drifted a bit lower, and Fujigaya picked up the pace, hoping that Kamenashi would think he was just really excited about the coffee.

Fujigaya sat himself as close to the left arm of the couch as he could, tensing, but Kamenashi sat on the other end without comment. She leaned forward to pour them both coffee.

“Do you take cream or sugar?” she asked.

“Quite a bit of sugar, actually,” Fujgaya said, then took the delicate coffee cup from her, feeling young and awkward as he tried to cradle it without burning his hands. He sipped at it and thought about adding more sugar himself, then just decided to take it. “This is very good.”

“Yes, they do know how to treat a lady here,” Kamenashi said, reclining back against her side of the couch, looking Fujigaya over without trying to hide it. “So, Fujigaya-kun, tell me about yourself.”

“Mm,” Fujigaya hedged, taking another sip of coffee. “It seems like you’ve found out about me yourself already.”

“Only what everyone knows.” Kamenashi smiled, tilting her head so that it was resting against the fingertips of the arm lying across the back of the couch. “I like to get to know the people I work with a little more…deeply.”

“Er,” Fujigaya said, wondering if any coffee in the world was worth this.

“Any special women in your life, Fujigaya-kun?” Kamenashi went on, and even the way she said Fujigaya’s name kind of gave him the creepy crawlies. “Girlfriend?”

“N-no, I’m afraid not,” Fujigaya stuttered, resting his cup against his knee so that he wouldn’t slosh coffee all over himself like a complete blueass. “My career takes up all of my spare time, and President Domoto doesn’t approve of that sort of thing.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Kamenashi agreed, finding that amusing apparently. Her eyes turned knowing, encouraging him to share. “Boyfriend, then?”

“Nothing like that.” Fujigaya decided putting the coffee entirely on the coffee table was definitely a better idea.

“Ah, but such a shame,” Kamenashi sighed, like she was watching a daytime drama. “You’re such a handsome young thing, in your prime, you should definitely take a lover to enjoy yourself with.”

“I enjoy myself just fine,” Fujigaya said without thinking, then flushed red when Kamenashi lifted a hand to cover a laugh. “What I mean is, I’m satisfied with the way things are.”

“Are you?” Kamenashi asked, and Fujigaya got the feeling his correction hadn’t been any less embarrassing than his original statement. She sat up and slid a bit closer, leaning in to speak intimately. “Satisfied, I mean. Is there any way I could change your mind? I know I’m older than you, but women reach their sexual prime much later than men, you know. And I always do enjoy teaching young men the ways of the world…”

“Kamenashi-san,” Fujigaya said firmly, politeness and Domoto be damned, this was way too much. “I’m flattered, but as I said, I’m not interested. I’m very focused on my career at the moment.”

“That really is a shame,” Kamenashi said, reclining back against her arm of the couch with a sigh. She reached for her own coffee cup on the table and took a sip, watching Fujigaya over the rim of her cup. “You should really reconsider, though. You might as well get something out of this.”

“This?” Fujigaya asked, not liking at all the way Kamenashi was looking at him. Some of the false innocence had dropped away, leaving behind a more keen, calculating look. Fujigaya got the feeling this was much closer to the real Kamenashi.

“You are alone with a woman in her hotel room,” Kamenashi pointed out. “When I said I came to Tokyo to do some promotions work…”

“Are you kidding me?” Fujigaya demanded, thinking of the reporters in front of the hotel. He curled his hands into fists to keep from slapping his own forehead. Stupid, so stupid, he chastised himself. “Did you call them? Did you tell them I’d be here?”

“Idols your age aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the tabloids.” Kamenashi gave a little shrug, avoiding all the direct questions. “A little scandal does wonders for a single’s sales, don’t you find?” She laughed when Fujigaya struggled to come up with a retort for that. “Goodness, are you really blushing? Darling, trust me, a lover wouldn’t go too far amiss, I think.”

Fujigaya stood up, shaking a little from fury at being used so transparently, but he managed to keep his voice even. “Thank you for the coffee, and I hope your single works out. I’m sorry I’ll be unavailable to help you in the future. I’ll show myself out.”

“Give my best to Moriguchi-san from Friday if you see him down there,” Kamenashi called after him, apparently finding Fujigaya’s dramatic exit amusing. “He always treats me very kindly.”

Fujigaya just barely kept from slamming the door, but he was fuming the entire way down in the elevator, his face scary enough that when the doors opened on the fourth floor, the girls waiting to go down decided that they’d wait until the next one. He got as far as the lobby before his good sense kicked in and he realized the reporters would still be outside. Kamenashi might have even warned them by now, so the front door was definitely out.

Looking around, he spotted a hallway leading off to the side, and turned mid-step to follow that instead, intending to hunt up a back exit. He heaved a little sigh of relief when he spotted an exit sign at the end of the hallway, a hotel employee just coming back in through it.

“I wouldn’t,” the hotel employee said as Fujigaya passed him.

“What?” Fujigaya stopped, turning to glare, but the employee only shrugged. He smelled of cigarette smoke, making Fujigaya want to sneeze. He glanced down at the employee’s nametag, which read “Eda.”

“You’re that guy from that band, aren’t you?” he asked. He thought a second, then snapped his fingers. “Sunshine.”

“What about it?” Fujigaya asked, impatient and in no mood for fans of any gender. “Look, I’m in kind of a–”

“Well, go for it if you want,” the employee said. “But there’s a bunch of reporters hanging around out there. They yelled at me for blocking their shots when I was smoking in front of the doorway.”

“Dammit.” Fujigaya slumped against the wall, exasperated. This was supposed to be his day off! “Thanks. There another exit out of here?”

“Sure, but not one they don’t know about, if they bothered to come the whole way back here to this one.” The hotel employee looked genuinely sympathetic. “Sorry, man. For future reference, whoever you’re meeting here, I’d quit it. We get Friday-ed like three times a week.”

“Thanks for the advice,” Fujigaya grumbled, turning to go back the other way.

“I mean, dude, try a love hotel. There’s a million of them, plus they have these awesome little one-use–”

“THANK you,” Fujigaya interrupted, at his limit for shady love life advice today.

He ducked into the bathroom attached to the lobby and leaned against the wall to think a minute. He didn’t see any way out of this on his own, so he’d have to call someone. Yokoo would only yell at him, and Tamamori would probably bring Miyata along and get them doubly tabloided (“Sunshine’s lead singer has foursome with bandmate, middle-aged woman, and another man!”).

That only left one possible choice.

“You’re where?” Senga was already laughing before Fujigaya had even finished his story.

“It’s not funny!” Fujigaya hissed. “I’m trapped in the bathroom! That crazy woman called reporters and they’re staking out the hotel!”

“Stop, stop,” Senga wheezed. “I can’t take it! Oh man, that’s gold. But what do you want me to do about it?”

“Just come and pick me up!” Fujigaya demanded. “We’ll probably still get caught, but at least it’ll look like I wasn’t alone.”

“Ugh, I don’t want to be in your tabloid threesome, Taipi,” Senga protested.

“Kento!”

“Okay, okay,” Senga relented, Fujigaya’s hysteria apparently making an impression at last. “We’ll come as quick as we can, hold tight, okay? Tell me again exactly where you are.”

It took what felt like ages for Senga to get there, Fujigaya tensing every time the bathroom door swung open, afraid it might just as easily be reporters descending on him as Senga coming to rescue him. Eventually it was too much for his nerves to take and despite his unhappiness about the hygiene of the situation, Fujigaya went into one of the stalls for what little protection it offered. He put down about five layers of toilet paper on the seat for protection, and then sat down and drew his knees up so nobody could even recognize his boots.

Finally, the door swung open again, but instead of more rowdy half-drunk business from the bar, a voice whispered, “Taisuke?”

“Thank god,” Fujigaya said, hopping up and throwing open the stall door, “dammit, Ken-chan, could you have taken any long–”

It wasn’t Senga at all, actually, it was Kitayama standing in the men’s room, holding a large shopping bag with a department store logo on it. While Fujigaya tried to absorb that, she reached behind her shoulder to flip the lock on the bathroom door shut.

“What is this?” Fujigaya demanded. He pointed at Kitayama accusingly. “How are you not going to make this nine thousand times worse?!”

“Shut up, I had a way better idea than your half-baked plan,” Kitayama shushed him. “Take off your clothes.”

“No!” Fujigaya hollered. “Here?!”

“Will you shush, before you bring half the building running?” Kitayama hissed. She shoved the shopping into Fujigaya’s hands. “And where else? Put that on, and hurry up.”

Fujigaya reached in the back and pulled out a cute, pink-striped one piece dress. “No way. Seriously, what the fuck?! How is dressing me like a girl not going to be amazing blackmail material?”

“Because they aren’t looking for a girl,” Kitayama said smugly, folding her arms. “They won’t even notice some girl and her boyfriend coming out with their shopping.”

“With her boyfriend…” Fujigaya trailed off as he figured out who the boyfriend was supposed to be. “There is no way in hell this is happening.”

“Go ahead and think of another plan to get out of here,” Kitayama said, as if making a generous offer. “I’ll wait, no pressure. Go on.” She tapped her fingers against her arm while Fujigaya’s whole face scrunched up with the effort of coming up with any other plan. “No? Yeah, that’s because there isn’t one. You can thank me for being a genius later, but for right now put that dress on and be quick about it. Sooner or later somebody’ll realize this door is locked and then those reporters will really have a story.”

“God, fuck my life,” Fujigaya whined, setting the bag on the counter and reaching for his belt. “Turn around, you. You’re not allowed to enjoy this.”

“You getting naked is the part of this I’m enjoying the least, trust me,” Kitayama said, but she did as requested. Fujigaya stuck his tongue out at her back, then stripped off his shirt.

The dress was a bit loose, which helped it hide Fujigaya’s lack of bosom, and fell to just above Fujigaya’s knees. Also in the bag was a pair of boots which came up high enough to make up the difference and hopefully hide the fact that Fujigaya’s legs were definitely not clean-shaven.

“These boots are not my size,” Fujigaya complained as he wedged his foot into the second one, wincing at the pinch of it. Kitayama turned to eye the results.

“You know like ninety-five percent of Japanese women all have the same shoe size, right?” Kitayama nodded in approval, looking Fujigaya up and down. “Not bad. I think you make a better girl than me.”

“Who doesn’t?” Fujigaya growled, but Kitayama only said not to be jealous. She reached over and tugged the hair tie out that had been holding back Fujigaya’s sides, then used her fingers to comb Fujigaya’s hair down and forward, more in her face. Fujigaya tried to ignore the warmth of Kitayama’s fingers against his scalp and tugging through his hair, reminding himself severely that he was very angry and not enjoying this even a little.

“There.” Kitayama stepped back to examine the whole picture. “I think this is going to work. Put your sunglasses on.” Kitayama reached up to tuck more of her own hair up into her hat, which looked familiar to Fujigaya.

In fact, her entire outfit looked kind of familiar. “Hey, what are you wearing?”

“I switched some stuff with Ken-chan, that’s what took so long,” Kitayama said, preoccupied checking her reflection in the mirror and adjusting the lie of her jacket. “That plus buying your dress. The one day I go out actually sort of looking like a girl, you know? You have terrible timing, Tai-chan.”

“Don’t call me that,” Fujigaya said sourly, dropping his normal clothes into the shopping bag.

“What else would I call my cute girlfriend?” Kitayama asked. She unlocked the door and stuck her head outside to check in both directions while Fujigaya was still spluttering. “The coast is clear, hurry up.”

Fujigaya’s eyes hadn’t adjusted to the sunglasses yet, and she ended up bumping right into the doorframe. Chuckling, Kitayama tugged her out into the hallway and reached down to grab her hand firmly. “Quit laughing. And hold my hand the other way, you’re supposed to be the guy.”

“Try to look like you’re on a fun date,” Kitayama coached. Fujigaya only glared. “Ah, maybe I like the tsundere type anyway. Hand me that bag though, if I make you carry your own shit I really will look like a terrible boyfriend.”

Once they were all adjusted, Fujigaya took a deep breath, steeling himself. The couple dozen yards across the lobby and out the front door looked like kilometers, and he wasn’t one hundred percent positive that he wouldn’t go face first into one of the flower arrangements when he tried to go more than a couple meters in these boots.

“Here we go,” Kitayama said. “Just act natural.”

They strolled through the lobby, Kitayama making ridiculous small talk as if she were leading him on a little tourist date in Tokyo. When nobody pointed or stared immediately, Fujigaya relaxed a little and dared hope that they might pull this off. Kitayama held open the door properly when they reached it and Fujigaya slipped through it, holding tight to her arm as he stepped off the little step from the hotel doorframe to the sidewalk and nearly tipped over.

“Careful, sweetie,” Kitayama said, chuckling, tugging him upright and along as quickly as she dared. “Don’t look but I think it might be working.”

“Yeah?” Fujigaya started to turn his head, then squeaked when Kitayama pinched his arm.

“I said don’t look! Only one guy is looking at us anyway, maybe he thinks you’re hot.” Kitayama paused as if checking the traffic before crossing the street. “Where’s your car at?”

Fujigaya had never been more relieved in his entire life when they reached his car and he could slump into the driver’s seat, off of his abused feet. Kitayama shook her head, smiling with amusement as she offered Fujigaya back the bag with his clothes in it, and all Fujigaya did was reach for his boots.

“Scoot over,” Kitayama ordered, and Fujigaya paused in the middle of tugging a boot off.

“What?”

“Over, move over, into the passenger’s seat.” Kitayama pointed. “Or get out and walk around, but you already have your shoes off.”

“Why?” Fujigaya demanded. “You aren’t driving my car!”

“What kind of jackass makes his girlfriend drive him around?” Kitayama explained patiently. “And unless you want to see if this garage has a bathroom or change out here in the open, until we get home, you’re still the girl and I’m still the boyfriend.”

“Go drive your own car!” Fujigaya blustered. He kicked at Kitayama with a bare foot.

“Because I don’t think it’s smart for a girl to be seen driving your ridiculously conspicuous sports car, okay? Will you quit kicking up such a fuss over nothing?” Kitayama demanded. “Why’s it so hard for you to just let somebody take charge once in a while?”

“Jackass,” Fujigaya accused, hiking up his skirt enough to crawl over the gearshift and flopping into the passenger seat in a sulk. Kitayama lobbed his boots in after him carelessly. “Ow! That hurt!”

“And you could say thank you,” Kitayama said, voice cold, as she got into the driver’s seat and buckled herself in. The fun had faded out of her expression, as if she was just as sick of Fujigaya in a dress as he was. “We could have let you work it out yourself. Going to some woman’s hotel room by yourself, what were you even thinking? You’re always on about Sunshine’s image, but isn’t the person causing most of the problems lately you?”

Fujigaya stared at his lap silently, cheeks heating.

The first ten minutes of the drive were tense and silent, Kitayama staring straight out the windshield at the road.

“Thank you,” Fujigaya finally said. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re welcome,” Kitayama answered. She didn’t look away from the road, but her shoulders loosened a little.

Sunshine’s Senga Kento caught at hotel with mystery woman read the tabloid headline the next morning, when Yokoo held it up to demand what the hell he thought he was doing.

“That’s not me!” Senga gasped, eyes wide. “It’s not!”

“Really?” Yokoo raised an eyebrow. “Because I sure recognize that hat, and not even a desperate homeless person would steal that thing.”

“I wasn’t even there! I was shopping all afternoon with Hiro!” Senga protested. “She–” He stopped short, glancing guiltily to the side at Kitayama and Fujigaya. “Well…”

“It’s me,” Fujigaya admitted.

“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s way too short to be you,” Yokoo dismissed him. “And you’d never wear that hat out in public.”

“No, the…the girl.” Fujigaya stared at the carpet, cheeks burning and scowling fiercely. “The girl is me. The guy is Kitayama.”

There was a long second of silence where Yokoo reassessed the photograph in all its blurry glory. He heaved a sigh.

“This is why you can’t have days off,” he said, reaching up to massage his temples. “Tell me what happened. Assuming any part of this narrative is coherent.”

“It was that song I was redoing the arrangement for,” Fujigaya starts haltingly, trying to assess where this all went terribly wrong. “I just wanted it over with, so I finished it yesterday, and then I went to drop it off at Kamenashi’s hotel–”

“You did what?” Yokoo demanded. “Don’t you have any sense at all?! Stop laughing!” He rounded on Kitayama, who was trying to hide it behind a hand, but it wasn’t working very well. Senga looked like he wanted to laugh but couldn’t quite get past his accidental involvement in the cougar sex scandal.

“Sorry, I can’t,” Kitayama said, snickers still leaking out. “You should have seen his face!”

“She put the moves on me!” Fujigaya said, voice scandalized. “That women, ugh! She just wanted to use me for some tawdry sex scandal, and then she had the nerve to say I needed a lover to teach me about the ways of the world! Like I needed somebody…to…” The harder Kitayama laughed, the harder Fujigaya had to work not to join in, mouth twitching as he tried to keep his scowl firmling in place. “…to…make me…a man…”

It really was ridiculous, and finally Fujigaya was laughing too, too hard to continue to the story.

“So he called Ken-chan to c-come and sneak him out,” Kitayama tried to pick up the thread of the story between snickers. “But I thought that would just make things w-worse, so…”

“So you put him in a dress?” Yokoo exclaimed.

“It totally worked, though!” Kitayama protested.

“We nearly made it!” Fujigaya added.

“You really did work those boots,” Kitayama deadpanned, and then they both lost it, Fujigaya laughing so hard that he was nearly doubled over.

“I’m glad somebody’s laughing,” Yokoo grumbled, pulling out his phone but then just staring at it, like he wasn’t sure what step two might possibly be.

“You guys!” Senga wailed. “It’s not funny! Nika is gonna kill me!”

“She did tell you not to get photographed with strange women,” Yokoo reminded, no sympathy whatsoever. Senga whined more piteously until Fujigaya relented and hugged him and said not to worry, he wouldn’t let his tabloid boyfriend be murdered.

“It’d be a shame since we look so cute together, wouldn’t it?” Fujigaya did a cutesy peace sign pose with his arm still wrapped around Senga’s shoulders. “You have to teach me the ways of the world!”

Senga threw an arm around Fujigaya’s waist and growled possessively that no woman of his ought to be photographed coming out of hotels. “Got it, Tai-chan?”

“Darling~,” Fujigaya tittered, then snorted into Senga’s hair.

When Fujigaya looked up, Yokoo was not laughing at all. Kitayama wasn’t either, which seemed a bit odd, but Fujigaya shrugged it off. Patting Senga on the head, he said he was going to go get dressed for work.

They were recording several more songs for the album that day, so Fujigaya didn’t see very much of the others for the rest of the day, aside from Tamamori who liked to side beside Miyata and watch him fiddle with the soundboard during his own breaks. They all recorded during each other’s breaks, even through dinner. During the few breaks they were both off, Kitayama was quiet, almost sullen, but Fujigaya brushed it off as nerves about recording or tiredness, preoccupied himself with humming over his next section.

Fujigaya had more lines than anybody as usual, excepting Kitayama, so he left the studio last of all that night, yawning and heartily sick of the bottled tea Miyata kept reminding him to sip between takes to protect his throat.

He was just stripping off his jacket in his room when the heard the door close behind him. Fujigaya turned to find Kitayama leaning against his bedroom door, scowling at the carpet.

“What?” Fujigaya asked, swallowing another yawn. “If you’re having another musical breakthrough, could it please wait until morning? I’m exha–”

“So it turns out,” Kitayama interrupted, striding forward until she was basically right in Fujigaya’s personal space, “that I don’t like the idea of you with anybody else either.”

She fisted a hand in Fujigaya’s T-shirt and yanked him down before Fujigaya could answer, her kiss possessive and demanding. Fujigaya pulled away for air, head spinning, eyes caught by the way Kitayama licked at her lower lip.

“And I’m pretty sick of waiting for you to do something about it,” she finished.

Brain static-filled, Fujigaya didn’t try very hard to come up with a reason to argue. Instead he threaded fingers through Kitayama’s hair on either side of her face and tilted her head back for another kiss. It was messier this time, both of them fighting for dominance of it, and Fujigaya didn’t even realize they were moving backwards until the backs of his knees hit the edge of his bed and he tumbled backwards, dragging Kitayama down with him.

“Oof!” he grunted as Kitayama’s weight landed squarely on his stomach. “Watch it! You weigh a fucking ton!”

“Oi, don’t you know better than to mention a lady’s weight?” Kitayama demanded, hitching herself up a little higher onto her elbows. All it really did was get her into a proper straddle over Fujigaya’s lap, though. He reached for her hips, intending to shift her to a less dangerous spot.

“I’ve got delicate stuff down there,” Fujigaya said, eyes narrowing as Kitayama grabbed his wrists and pinned them flat to the bed on either side of his head.

“Yeah, you’re a delicate flower, all right,” she retorted, and then ground down in a deliberate circle with her hips, making Fujigaya bite down on a groan. “At least that’s what Kamenashi-chan seems to think.”

“Fuck, don’t bring her up,” Fujigaya protested, but truthfully the possessive gleam in Kitayama’s eyes was making his blood run hotter, his skin already burning where Kitayama’s fingers were wrapped tight around his wrists. “I just want to forget that whole thing.”

“Good,” Kitayama says, vehement, leaning over him and pressing his wrists down harder. “Because I’m gonna make you forget everything but me.”

She already had Fujigaya more than half of the way there, and Fujigaya didn’t take long at all to go the rest of the distance, attention completely absorbed by the press of Kitayama’s mouth on his, the roll of her body down against his. He slid hands down her side and back up to push her T-shirt out of the way, groaning into Kitayama’s mouth at the heat of the bare skin of her back. Kitayama shivered when he slid his hands up and down again, slowly, and let go of his wrists to work fingers into his hair and pull. All of it was a vicious cycle, making Fujigaya’s nerves crackle and whine like a mic in an amped feedback loop.

Some distant part of Fujigaya’s brain was chanting that this was a terrible, terrible idea, but for once Fujigaya told it just to shut up and leave him alone.

Kitayama hummed encouragingly when Fujigaya’s hands slid down to her sides, his thumbs digging into the dips between her ribs. He dragged his hands up higher, hooking his thumbs under the slick fabric of her bra on the way, pushing it up and out of the way until he could cup her breasts properly. When he thumbed at her nipples, Kitayama broke the kiss to arch into his hands, tipping her head back and gasping loudly.

“Off,” Fujigaya ordered, and Kitayama sat up, apparently in agreement. She stripped off her T-shirt and bra in one smooth pull and tossed it aside. Fujigaya couldn’t take his eyes off of her skin, pale and smooth all the way down in contrast to the darkness of her forearms from being outside, the way her nipples were already dark and hard on her cute, pert breasts.

“Honestly,” Kitayama scolded, reaching down to undo Fujigaya’s buttons. She made it through about half of them before she just yanked the shirt over his head, then dragged fingertips down his bare chest, making Fujigaya groan and squeeze his eyes shut. Her touch lingered around his ribs, and Fujigaya’s breath hitched at the tickle of it. “You’d be so hot if you’d just fucking eat something.”

Fujigaya’s eyes snapped open to glare. “Yeah? Maybe if you ate a little less–” He cut off with a squeak when Kitayama pinched a nipple in warning.

“What did I say about that?” she asked, then paused as she noticed something, shifting down to get a better look. “Is that…it is. Tai-chan,” she purred, fingers drifting down to follow her gaze. “You little tease, you’ve got a naval piercing?”

“It’s from my foolish youth,” Fujigaya said. Kitayama rolled the bar with her fingers and Fujigaya moaned, arching up into her weight. “Shit, don’t do that if you’re gonna want me to stop any time soon.”

Kitayama looked him in the eye and tugged harder. Fujigaya knocked her hand away and sat up, dragging her close to keep her from getting any more bright ideas. He slide a hand up into the back of her hair to pull her down for another fierce kiss, their heights much more even with her sitting on Fujigaya’s lap. She wrapped arms around his neck and rolled her hips against his, making him moan into the kiss. Kitayama was never entirely still, shifting against Fujigaya with just enough friction to drive him half out of his mind, her nipples dragging along Fujigaya’s chest, his skin on fire everywhere hers was pressed against it, her fingers tugging through his hair and trailing down his back and shoulders.

Fujigaya slid his mouth away to try and catch his breath, over her jaw and down her neck. Kitayama tilted her head back, begging for more, and Fujigaya scraped teeth along the spot where her shoulder joined her neck, grinning when Kitayama cried out softly. “Don’t suppose you’ve got anything useful on you?”

“Back pocket,” Kitayama said, mostly into Fujigaya’s hair. He slid hands down into the back pockets of her jeans, squeezing her ass while he was there and finding that it felt just as good as it looked even through the rough denim. His fingers bumped foil, and Fujigaya shook his head as he used two fingers to fish out the condom packet.

“Prepared, aren’t we?” he asked drily. He grunted when Kitayama planted two hands in the middle of his chest and pushed him back down, flat on his back.

“Always. See, now you’re starting to get what kind of girl I am,” she said, winking as she plucked the condom packet out of Fujigaya’s fingers. “Finally. If I get up, can I trust you to get rid of these?” She tugged a little at Fujigaya’s zipper, snorting when Fujigaya’s hips jumped at the near touch. “Or are you going to be entirely useless? I think it’s only fair to warn you that I’m not really into doing all the work.”

Rather than answer, Fujigaya reached for the button of Kitayama’s jeans to show exactly how useful he could be. She rocked up onto her knees a little when Fujigaya started tugging at her zipper, eyes dark with interest as she watched his hands. Her jeans were loose enough once her zipper was down, barely, for Fujigaya to slide his palm down her flat belly and into her underwear.

“Mm, Taisuke,” she praised, rocking down slowly against Fujigaya’s fingers. She was slick before he ever got fingers down far enough to touch her properly, the heat of it going right to Fujigaya’s cock, still trapped in his jeans.

The angle was too awkward, the space too tight for Fujigaya to do anything besides give her something to rub against a little, but Kitayama didn’t apparently have any objection to the tease of it. Fujigaya curled his fingers, getting just barely inside her, and Kitayama moaned and squeezed her thighs around him before sliding back, out of reach.

“Jeans off, I said,” she ordered, chest rising and falling with her quick breathing, a flush starting to work its way down from her pale shoulders. She kicked hers off quick enough that Fujigaya had to rush to catch up, fingers in between her legs and picking up where Fujigaya had left off before Fujigaya had so much as managed to get off the bed.

“Fuck,” Fujigaya cursed, barely able to remember how clothes worked as he fought with his jeans. He could hardly concentrate on anything besides Kitayama’s fingers sliding inside herself, the way her other hand had come up to roll her nipple roughly between her fingers.

“Hurry up, or you’ll get left behind,” Kitayama warned, hips rolling down into hand in a deliberate rhythm, one that definitely was not just teasing.

“Of course you’re the fastest girl on the planet,” Fujigaya snapped, kicking off his jeans at last. He reached down to wrap fingers around her wrist and tug her hand away from herself.

“I’m not, really.” Kitayama gave a dark laugh and twisted her wrist to trail fingers down the center of Fujigaya’s chest, slick from touching herself. “I told you, I’ve been waiting for you to do something about it. I’d have think you’d have figured out by now, I’m not a very patient woman.”

“Can see that,” Fujigaya said, then moaned when Kitayama’s hand trailed low enough to wrap around his cock and give him a firm squeeze. “You’ve got such strong opinions on it, tell me where you want me.”

Kitayama raised an eyebrow, surprised at the offer. Fujigaya expected her to tease, but she was apparently past that stage because after a moment of narrow-eyed thought she ordered him back onto his back.

“Just like that,” Kitayama said in approval, picking the condom packet back up off the blankets and tearing it open. She didn’t roll it on right away, though, stroking Fujigaya a few times instead, not light enough to be a tease, not rough enough to really get him anywhere. Fujigaya groaned quietly and pushed up into her fist, her weight on his thighs making him work for it. Just to have something to do, he reached for her again, fingers sliding inside her much more deeply and easily without the barrier of her jeans in the way.

“You aren’t gonna come, are you?” Fujigaya asked when Kitayama began to move against his fingers deliberately, attention obviously distracted from where she’d been stroking him.

“What if I do?” Kitayama asked, closing her eyes and getting more into it. “You know girls can keep going after, right? Please don’t tell me I have to teach you all the sex things.”

“It’s not that I mind doing it, but my fingers aren’t the part I want to feel that around,” Fujigaya said, startling a breathless laugh out of Kitayama. He let her squeeze around him for a few seconds longer, and then pulled his hand away. “Come on, already.”

Kitayama didn’t waste any more time rolling the condom down onto Fujigaya. She held him up with a hand around his base as she slid down onto him slowly, and Fujigaya struggled to watch rather than to let his eyes close against the pleasure of it like he wanted to. Kitayama let out a long sigh as her weight settled fully onto his thighs, and Fujigaya had to draw a deep breath to keep from thrusting up as hard and fast as his body was begging him to.

“Well?” Kitayama asked, her shortness of breath belying her bravado. Fujigaya just made a wide motion with one of his hands.

“You wanted to take control so much,” he pointed out. Kitayama’s eyes narrowed in challenge, and Fujigaya had a split-second to regret his words before Kitayama splayed her hands across Fujigaya’s stomach for balance and started to ride him in earnest. “Fuck,” he groaned, grabbing for Kitayama’s waist, giving in and letting his hips snap like they wanted to.

“Just like that,” Kitayama gasped when Fujigaya caught up with her rhythm. She reached down and pushed one of his hands over, nudged his thumb down until it was rubbing squarely against the little nub just above where he was sliding in and out of her. “Hope that’s the part you wanted because…”

Kitayama’s words cut off as she tightened around Fujigaya, and she shuddered around him and under his hands for long enough that Fujigaya wasn’t sure he was going to last much longer. When she finally did open her eyes, they were low-lidded and so dark that Fujigaya shivered with an aftershock of his own, and it hadn’t even been his orgasm.

“Don’t move,” he said, voice strained, “or I’m going to come.”

“Yeah, about that.” Kitayama stretched lazily, arms reaching up over her head, and then she tipped herself backwards so that she was on her back across the end of Fujigaya’s bed in a lazy sprawl, Fujigaya slipping out of her in the process.

“Oi,” Fujigaya pushed himself onto his hands, scowling as Kitayama grinned up at him, lazy and satiated, “you liar, you just said you could keep going.”

“Yeah?” Kitayama spread her legs a little wider in invitation. “I also said I don’t do all the work, if you remember. But I’m more than willing if you’re up to it.”

She was laughing, that jerk, as Fujigaya huffed an annoyed sigh and got himself turned over to crawl over top of her. He couldn’t stay very annoyed though, because once he pushed back inside of her she was nothing but warm, clinging welcome, body opening up for him smoothly. Kitayama wrapped her legs around his waist and moved him where she wanted him herself, head tipping back on a long moan when he got it exactly right.

Eventually she wrapped arms around Fujigaya’s neck to drag him down close enough to kiss messily, flexible enough to manage it in spite of their height difference, and when Fujigaya hitched up her hips to make it work, she gasped into his mouth suddenly and unhooked one arm from around his neck to work in between them.

Kitayama broke the kiss to breathe into Fujigaya’s ear, “Come for me,” and then bit down on his earlobe, the sting of it kicking Fujigaya over the edge of his own release. Kitayama was still squeezing around him when he came to a minute later, over-sensitized enough that he whined and tried to roll away. “Oi, hold still, almost,” she ordered, tightening the hold of her legs and the one arm still around Fujigaya’s neck. “Or don’t, feels good when you struggle.”

“Sadist,” Fujigaya groaned, helpless. It made Kitayama laugh and then come against him, the second time seeming to last longer than the first one, long enough that Fujigaya wondered if his struggle to get loose really was prolonging it. “Seriously, get off.”

Kitayama went limp against the mattress, arms and legs flopping off of Fujigaya as Fujigaya rolled onto his own back, gasping and shivering. “Give me a minute, geez,” she said, and then laughed when Fujigaya whined in alarm.

7) Shocking truth – goodbye cruel fate

“So we definitely shouldn’t have done that,” Fujigaya said eventually, limbs aching dully, but at least the heat radiating off of Kitayama’s skin felt good where it was trapped under his blankets.

“Nope,” Kitayama sighed. Fujigaya couldn’t see her face with the lights out, but she sounded like she was nearly asleep already. Again. “Not even a little bit.”

“I don’t understand why being around you makes me do ridiculous things,” Fujigaya complained. “I’ve tried to convince fans adding a girl to rub against is no big deal, fought Tama for the number one pairings slot, actually took romantic advice from Kento, been tabloided while wearing a dress…”

“Don’t forget you were nearly man-handled by a cougar,” Kitayama said, chuckling at Fujigaya’s expense.

“Yeah and gee, no figuring at all where you’d get the idea that an aggressive older woman would want to systematically strip away whatever innocence I hadn’t already sacrificed to the music industry during my formative years.”

“Lack of practice and innocence aren’t the same thing,” Kitayama informed him, making Fujigaya scowl at the ceiling. “Neither is giving in to what you want once in a while and the whole world coming to an end. Shit just happens sometimes. Shut up and go to sleep.”

Kitayama took her own advice almost immediately, leaving Fujigaya to stew in his own thoughts.

Once in a while he could probably handle, but Fujigaya for all his shortcomings knew himself well, and what he wanted from Kitayama was not anything close to once in a while. And it wasn’t like she was just some girl where he could quit answering his phone or bury himself in work for a few days if he started feeling overwhelmed.

“Ever since you got here,” he growled, knowing Kitayama couldn’t hear him, “I’ve felt nothing but overwhelmed. And now that I know exactly what I was trying to ignore…” He trailed off when Kitayama rolled closer, pressing close along his side and sighing in contentment despite being sound asleep. She didn’t stir when Fujigaya tried to kick her back over. “God, you’re like a fucking bear bedding down for hibernation,” he said, but then stopped himself because that mental image was honestly kind of adorable.

Eventually he fell asleep, but woke up only a few hours later. It was already getting light, though, so he sat up with a sigh, scrubbing at his face and hair. Beside him, Kitayama didn’t seem to have moved at all, still unconscious. On impulse, Fujigaya leaned down to kiss her firmly, and didn’t let up until he felt her lips start to move back against his.

“At least I didn’t get punched again,” Fujigaya said, sitting back up.

“The fuck is happening?” Kitayama groaned, glancing past Fujigaya to the window, and then the clock. “Does that start with a five? Ugh, fuck everything, this is why I start with punching.”

“I’m getting up,” Fujigaya said, standing up and stretching. “Go sleep in your own bed, unless you’re looking forward to getting caught in here.”

“Again,” Kitayama said with a lazy smirk.

“Don’t remind me,” Fujigaya grumbled as Kitayama sat up, dragging fingers through her sleep-wild hair. But just as Fujigaya was about to turn and head for the showers, Kitayama lunged forward and caught Fujigaya around the waist, just barely in reach. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

Kitayama dragged Fujigaya back, hands firm on his hips, until he was standing right next to his bed. She gave him a low-lidded grin, then dropped one hand to wrap tight around his cock. Fujigaya was already half-hard from the normal morning business, and he twitched in her hand when she leaned in to lick the tip teasingly. “Pretty sure you’ll get the idea in a second.”

Too fuzzy from exhaustion and sleep to even try fighting her off, not that he would have probably done that anyway, Fujigaya let her have her way. He let his head tip back as Kitayama slid her mouth down his length and started sucking him off in earnest, one hand drifting down to roll his balls and the other arm sliding back around his waist to tug him even closer.

She knew was she was doing, Fujigaya thought with a burst of jealousy, but it wasn’t long before that was washed away by arousal, by the heat of her mouth and the squeeze of her fingers digging into his ass. Fujigaya didn’t make her wait, pulling at her hair in warning, but it only made her look up at him with dark eyes. She scraped teeth just a little against the underside of his shaft, just enough, and Fujigaya came hard enough that her arm was what kept him from tipping backwards and crashing into his desk.

“Hm,” Kitayama said, letting him slip out of her mouth and looking reasonably self-satisfied. “Just in case you freak out. I definitely wanted to do that at least once.”

“I’m not freaking out,” Fujigaya tried to snap, only in his hazy state it didn’t come out sounding very convincing. He gave her what he hoped was a withering glare. “Don’t you dare follow me into the shower.”

“Damn, you’re so cute all ruffled up,” Kitayama sighed, flopping back down to the side. “It just makes me want to do the opposite of everything you say.” Fujigaya opened his mouth, but she waved him off, barely lifting her hand off the bed to do it. “Don’t worry, my bed sounds a lot more inviting than your cold shower. But I won’t forget you owe me one.”

That mental image stuck with Fujigaya all through his shower, which he hardly needed to be cold after Kitayama had just sucked the living daylights out of him, all through breakfast, and still had a pretty good grip by the time they were being positioned by a staff photographer for their album’s cover shoot.

It didn’t pose a problem for solo shots, at least.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking about, but keeping thinking about it, Fujigaya-kun,” the photographer said. “You look so intense!”

“Hm?” Fujigaya blinked, startled out of his thoughts about Kitayama sprawled on her back against his sheets.

“He does look different today, doesn’t he?” Kitayama agreed, having appeared behind the photographer to watch while Fujigaya’s mind had been on other things. She winked when she caught Fujigaya looking. “He seems almost like he’s glowing, don’t you think?”

Fujigaya gave her a withering look, but it only earned him more praise from the photographer and Kitayama laughing at him behind her hand. He tried to get even with her by hanging around during her solo shots, but Kitayama only met his gaze directly and smiled like she had the best secret, eyes knowing and hooded from eyeliner, hands resting against her chest or hips like she was suggesting places to touch.

When he couldn’t take it any more, Fujigaya slunk off, back to the dressing room. It would still be a wait until the group shots anyway, since Senga and Tamamori had their solo shots to get through yet, plus proof checking. Tamamori was just coming out of the room looking scandalized when Fujigaya arrived, though.

“The usual?” Fujigaya asked.

“Nika-chan daiyo~,” Tamamori said sourly, scrubbing at his pink cheeks with the backs of his hands, and Fujigaya decided to go outside and get some air instead.

The sun was already mostly set and it was a little too cold to stand around without his coat, but Fujigaya leaned against the metal railing of the landing and let the wind ruffle his hair up with cool fingers. He’d been feeling too warm anyway, as if Kitayama’s usual warmth was contagious and he’d caught it from overexposure. He didn’t go back inside until he was shivering, feeling at least a little more himself.

It only lasted until he strolled past the dressing room door, and a hand shot out to grab his arm and yank him in the room. Fujigaya stifled a yelp of surprise, then glared when he found himself with his back pressed up against the door and Kitayama standing too close, grinning at him with that same knowing, secretive smile.

“Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!” Fujigaya demanded. “What are you doing?”

“You owe me one.” Kitayama took a hold of Fujigaya’s wrists and placed his hands on a few of the places her photoshoot poses had been suggesting before. “Come on, hurry up and this’ll totally be quick.”

“Hey, whoa!” Fujigaya protested, even if he didn’t exactly move his hands. “Not at work! We totally are not doing this at work!”

“While I agree with that on principal,” Kitayama slid hands up under Fujigaya’s glittery fashion rock T-shirt and dragged her nails lightly down his sides, making him arch into the touch, “I have an eyeliner clause.”

It wasn’t quite as fast as advertised, but at least Fujigaya had relocated from leaning against the door to hefting Kitayama up onto the edge of the makeup counter, or they would have both gone crashing to the ground when Nikaido threw open the door to retrieve some extra costume pieces and gave a squawk that probably half the building heard.

“What the hell?!” Nikaido demanded, Senga and Tamamori peering shamelessly over her shoulders.

Kitayama shrugged, tugging her shirt back down into place. “He owed me one.”

“One what?” Tamamori asked. Fujigaya buried his face in his hands.

“Tama!” Senga covered his mouth with a hand to muffle laughter as Tamamori’s face scrunched up in realization.

“Grooooss,” he complained. He punched Senga in the arm. “And quit laughing! Between all of you freaks, there isn’t a single flat surface in here that hasn’t been defiled!”

“Horizontal or vertical,” Kitayama said smugly.

“OH COME ON,” Tamamori wailed, while Nikaido raised an eyebrow and Senga laughed so hard he had to lean against his girlfriend to stay upright. Fujigaya contemplated strangling himself with his silly, thin scarf.

“Shush, like you’ve never defiled a soundboard with Miyacchi,” Kitayama said to Tamamori, hopping down off the counter and smoothing down her skirt, the gesture ironically demure.

“Not at work!” Tamamori sniffed. “I have standards.” Fujigaya gave Kitayama a pointed look, but Kitayama just grinned back. “Plus, soundboard-san isn’t exactly comfortable. who wants a knob jammed in their back?”

“Don’t even,” Nikaido warned. Senga shut his mouth but grinned as hard as if he’d made the obvious joke anyway.

“I CAN’T HEAR ANY OF THIS,” Yokoo’s voice boomed from the hallway, making all of them jump. “If you aren’t out here for group shots in THIRTY SECONDS FLAT I am sending in the photographer in there to shoot whatever he finds!”

“Can we think about it?” Senga turned around to ask, leaning back out in the hallway. “Because you can’t see these two, it might make us super popular.”

“And then super dead,” Tamamori said, pursing his lips.

“DIDN’T HEAR ANY OF THAT,” Yokoo hollered.

Group shots were much more of a problem, because word had spread about the popularity of the Kitayama-Fujigaya pair, and so the center of every shot seemed to involve the photographer ordering them to touch as much as possible. Fujigaya felt itchy and uncomfortable wedged so close to Kitayama when he couldn’t get the image of her against the dressing room mirror out of his head, head thrown back against the glass to bare her throat, skirt hiked up around her thighs.

As usual, Fujigaya couldn’t keep his discomfort out of his expression, slowing everything down exponentially.

“I should have known that was too good to last,” the photographer sighed. “Fujigaya-kun, unless you want to look like you’d rather die than be on the cover of your album…”

“Can’t we just try switching around?” Fujigaya begged, trying to look like he was pitching a professional suggestion instead of whining about who got the front seat. If he could just get Senga or Tamamori in the as a buffer, he thought he could pull himself together for the duration of this.

“No, because you’re trying to show your fans that Hiromi is vocal co-lead and an integral part of your group,” Yokoo said firmly. “And also, you sound like you’re whining about who gets the front seat.”

“I do not,” Fujigaya said under his breath.

“Come on, Taipi,” Senga said, cheek pillowed against Fujigaya’s shoulder and not too far from a whine himself. His eyes were drooping with exhaustion. “I’m so tired, I just wanna go home.”

“Yeah, what’s your deal anyway?” Kitayama asked, yawning hugely since they were on a moment’s break. “Now that you know and I know, and even they know, why are you still all worked up? Shouldn’t it be a lot easier?”

“It’s just not,” Fujigaya said shortly. He didn’t get it himself, honestly, why after all these years in front of a camera having Kitayama be the one pressed against him made him feel like he was learning fan-service all over again, but that was just the way things were. Out of other options, he tried simply to pretend that it was Tamamori pressed against his other side like a thousand photoshoots before. It only worked in fleeting moments though; as soon as Kitayama shifted or Fujigaya caught a whiff of her strawberry shampoo, he’d tense up all over again.

“Some of those will have to do,” the photographer finally gave in, motioning at them to get up. All four of them groaned as they tried and mostly failed, knees cracking and feet asleep, whining as they tried to shake out pins and needles.

Fortunately, when they checked the monitors along with Yokoo and the photographer, a few group shots had turned out well enough to use for covers, and a lot more would be fine as smaller filler shots in the album booklet. Fujigaya still felt annoyed, more with himself than anything else, for holding everything up and for just being entirely unable to wear a professional face.

“But that’s why fans like you, though,” Senga tried to make Fujigaya feel better as they were packing up. “It’s why we like you. It’s easy to see what you’re really thinking. That’s just you, don’t try and change it.”

“How can you say that after this whole fiasco?” Fujigaya asked.

“That’s the downside, I guess.” Senga shouldered his bag. “Instead of hiding your problems like we all do, you actually have to solve yours.”

“It’s not a thing I can solve,” Fujigaya said, eyes straying to where Kitayama was stretching with her arms over her head, hoodie and T-shirt riding up, bouncing on the balls of her feet a little in time to whatever was playing through her earbuds. “She’s not a thing I can solve.”

“Solve doesn’t mean get rid of, you know,” Senga pointed out, and Fujigaya’s mouth bunched up in a frown. “I mean you need to sort it out inside yourself.”

“That’s hard, though,” Fujigaya grumbled, only half joking. Senga nodded.

“Of course it is. But you can do it.” He offered Fujigaya a confident smile. “You’ll do whatever’s best for us. That’s why you’re Leader.”

He strolled off as if the matter was entirely settled now that he’d left it in Fujigaya’s hands. Fujigaya made ugly faces at his back.

“Ken-chan-sensei strikes again, I see,” Yokoo commented from the side, jingling his keys in an attempt to get Tamamori moving slightly faster than the pace of a glacier.

“Eat it, you,” Fujigaya said, shoving his hands in his pockets and heading out to fight with Senga properly for the front seat.

He did think about it, though, rolled it over and over in his mind even though it was unpleasant to dig around in his own feelings, to try and sort through the rush of heat and sex and affection Kitayama could send sweeping over him by just blinking sleepily at him from the backseat. If he had some time, Fujigaya thought, maybe the feelings wouldn’t be so intense as their newness faded, or maybe he’d just get used to them.

But time wasn’t a luxury they had much of ever, most of all when they needed it. Fujigaya might as well wish for sick days or a PV shooting schedule that didn’t last until three in the morning.

When Fujigaya slipped into Kitayama’s room without knocking, Kitayama lifted her head from where she was sprawled on her back on her bed. She was still fully dressed except for her sneakers, apparently having made no further progress after flopping down on her bed.

She raised an eyebrow when she saw it was Fujigaya. “Really? Because I have to say, even I’m pretty worn out. Thanks for working hard.”

“No. I’ve been thinking about it.”

“Oh god.” Kitayama let her head fall back down, sighing. “All right, go ahead.”

“It’s different, doing that stuff with you and doing with Tama or Kento.” Fujigaya leaned against the door, hands behind his back like that would keep them from getting into trouble. “It’s not like I don’t feel anything for them, but getting close with them, acting like we’re into each other, there isn’t anything underneath it. It doesn’t matter. You’re different than that.”

“Yeah?” Kitayama asked, sounding casual, but Fujigaya could read into it without much effort at this point.

“It’s real, I actually want you. So being told to do it on command,” Fujigaya made a low, angry noise, “I hate it. It’s not for them to see, what’s between us. I don’t want them knowing anything about it! But it’s not something I can hide either, when they make me get so close to you.”

Kitayama pushed herself up so that she was sitting up, facing Fujigaya properly. Her face was serious, and Fujigaya thought it looked strange without any tease or smirk or bravado. “Yeah? So, what, then?”

Fujigaya took a deep breath, not liking what he was about to say at all. “It wasn’t so bad, before. I was annoyed, but…that actually seemed to be working in our favor. I think we have to go back to that. Trying to do both, being with you and being Sunshine…I don’t think I can do it.”

“Will it really be any different?” Kitayama wanted to know. “Just saying you want to go back, we’ll both still know what already happened. You’ll still feel the same about it.” Kitayama huffed a sigh, puffing her cheeks. “I’ll still feel the same. You can’t change your feelings just by saying stop.”

“Maybe not,” Fujigaya said, “but giving in to them like this…it’s interfering with everything. It’s not responsible, and even when it means I don’t get what I want all the time, I am responsible for all four of us.”

“Taisuke,” Kitayama said, shaking her head at him, “do you ever get what you want?”

“Yes,” Fujigaya said simply. “I want Sunshine. I want to keep us safe, want it enough that that’s even how you got here in the first place. So I feel what I feel and you feel what you feel, and that’s fine. But for me, it’s got to stop there. Okay?”

“Don’t ask me if it’s okay when you’ve already decided,” Kitayama snorted, looking off to the side so she wasn’t meeting Fujigaya’s eyes any more. “It’s not a missal launch, we don’t have to turn our keys at the same time. Shoo, if that’s all you have to say. I’m going to bed.”

“All right. Goodnight.” Fujigaya turned and put his hand on the door handle, but then just stood there, fingers resting on the cold metal. He struggled with the urge to look back over his shoulder, to say something else.

“Go if you’re going, Taisuke.”

Fujigaya had to close his eyes briefly against the way that Kitayama said his name, and then he pulled the door open and went, shutting it quietly behind him.

Kitayama didn’t make a big deal about it, but that hardly made the next few days suck any less. Fujigaya threw himself into his work to compensate, finishing up the last batch of songs for the album and finalizing the arrangements. He called Miyata during breaks to harrass him about track splitting and stayed late with Yara and Senga to work out the kinks of the new things for the upcoming tour. He caught Senga and Yara exchanging sympathetic glances in the mirrors from time to time, but Fujigaya shrugged it off.

“Take care of yourself,” was all that Senga said directly, and Fujigaya nodded and then went on doing exactly what he was doing. It was just easier if he could go home and collapse right away, spending his few hours of rest in heavy, dreamless sleep.

He filled up his days that way, so that they bled one into the other, for the two weeks until they had a weekend of promotional lives in Sapporo. The venue had been hard to book and conflicted with their actual tour dates after the release of the album, so Yokoo had decided to book it early and use it as a live trial-run.

“Better to embarrass ourselves working out the kinks there than in Tokyo,” Yokoo had said, shrugging off the inconvenience. “At least in Sapporo I won’t have to look my mother in the eye.”

“Such a vote of confidence from our fearless manager,” Fujigaya said with a roll of his eyes. Yokoo answered crisply that maybe they wouldn’t need trial runs in far-flung locations if their band didn’t have quite so many kinks in it.

“He’s talking about you,” Tamamori hissed to Senga.

“He’s talking about ALL OF YOU,” Nikaido hollered from behind the costume rack.

Even the hotel was full of drama, literally. The cast and crew of a of the winter dramas had the hotel booked up to film on location, and somehow Yokoo’s reservation had ended up with three rooms instead of the four that having a girl in the band necessitated. The manager was entirely apologetic, but there was nothing to do about it.

“Take my room,” Yokoo said to Kitayama, holding out the keycard. “I can share with Taisuke for a few nights.”

“No way!” Senga protested, making Yokoo raise his eyebrows at Senga’s unusual lack of cooperation. It all made sense though when he threw arms around Fujigaya’s waist and informed them, “I already scheduled my Leader time this weekend, and none of you guys are messing up my timeslot!”

“Keep it,” Kitayama pushed Yokoo’s hand back. “Tama and I can share.” Yokoo tried to argue, but Kitayama put her hands behind her back so that there was no way for Yokoo to shove the card into her hands. “Miyacchi won’t be jealous, right?”

“Tcht, that weirdo’s probably reading fanfiction about it right now,” Tamamori said, but then glared when Fujigaya said read it nothing, he was probably writing it.

Forced to give in, Yokoo handed over the rest of the cards and room numbers, along with the instructions not to keep the entire floor up half the night with their idiocy.

“If I get one phone call from the manager,” Yokoo warned, eyeing them sharply, “you’ll be taking the bus back!”

Fujigaya wasn’t up for antics anyway, wrung out from the last few weeks and the plane ride. He dropped his luggage on his bed and went straight for the shower, turning it up as hot as it would go, and it still took until the entire bathroom was filled with steam for his muscles to loosen a little. With the tension gone, Fujigaya felt his exhaustion all the more keenly. He shuffled out of the bathroom, barely bothering to tug on sweatpants before he flopped onto his bed and crawled under the blankets.

After a minute of silence, Fujigaya cracked an eye to see what was keeping Senga so quiet. Senga had changed into an old tour T-shirt and pajama pants himself, contacts out and glasses on, but when Fujigaya squinted, he didn’t get the feeling that Senga was exactly getting ready for bed. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, in fact, watching Fujigaya openly.

“What?” Fujigaya asked. “You’re staring.”

Senga grinned. “Waiting for you to get comfortable.” Without any more explanation, Senga flashed him a grin and then got up.

“What are you doing?” Fujigaya asked when Senga trotted over to the door connecting their room to Tamamori and Kitayama’s room next door. Senga’s only answer was a wide grin as he flipped the lock and pulled the door open.

On the other side was Tamamori with a struggling Kitayama held in front of him, and Senga stepped out of the way so Tamamori could shove her through the doorway with enough force to send her stumbling into the room a few steps.

“What happens in tour hotels stays in tour hotels,” Senga advised with a wink, then went through the doorway and pulled the doorway soundly shut behind him.

“This isn’t funny!” Fujigaya hollered, but it didn’t get him any answer besides a muffled giggle. Kitayama, having regained her balance, reached back to try the knob, but as expected, it had already been locked.

“Geez, whatever,” Kitayama yawned, her T-shirt ridiculously over-sized and her sweatpants trailing on the floor a few inches as she shuffled over to Senga’s deserted bed and flopped into it.

Sighing, Fujigaya flipped out the light and tried to get comfortable. For several minutes, the only sounds were Kitayama’s steady breathing and the rustle of sheets as she changed positions. Fujigaya tried to ignore it, but he couldn’t keep from imagining her sprawled across the sheets, hair spread over the pillow, features relaxed, mouth parted…

“I can’t sleep,” Kitayama announced, interrupting Fujigaya’s thoughts. He flushed furiously, as if she had caught him, despite being entirely hidden by the dark. There was the noise of Kitayama rolling over. “You can’t either, right?”

Fujigaya thought about pretending he was asleep already, but it seemed a stupid thing to lie about, really. “No.”

There was another rustle as Kitayama sat up and got out of bed, and then the click of the light being turned back on. Fujigaya squinted against the glare for a second, before Kitayama standing beside his bed blocks the worst of it.

“What are you doing?” Fujigaya asked nervously.

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” Kitayama rolled her eyes at him. “Move over.”

“Hey, no, no way,” Fujigaya protested. “I already said–”

“Yeah yeah.” Kitayama reached down to shove Fujigaya over herself before crawling under the blankets. She wriggled in obvious pleasure at the warmness of the blankets. “Calm down, I know the rules, no touching. You need sex about as much as you either eat or sleep, I got it. You know that idols are actual people too, right? Most people need at least a minimal amount of all three.”

Fujigaya snorted as he backed up to the edge of the bed, creating a tolerable amount of space between them. “As an idol I’m supposed to do at least two of those things barely at all.” Kitayama laughed quietly. “So if you aren’t trying to seduce me, what are you doing over here?”

“I said I wasn’t going to touch you, not that I’m not trying to seduce you,” Kitayama clarified. Her eyes were low-lidded as she got comfortable against the pillow, rolled onto her side facing Fujigaya. “I’m gonna touch myself, and you’re gonna touch yourself.”

What?” Fujigaya spluttered.

“You heard me.” Kitayama’s arm was easy to see as it moved under the blanket, making Fujigaya swallow hard. “I’m getting myself off so that I can sleep. It would go a lot faster if you did too, because I’m pretty interested in seeing that.”

“We could have done this just as easily in our own beds,” Fujigaya pointed out. His hand was twitching with the desire to adjust himself as Kitayama’s movements got more deliberate, but he made a fist, not ready to give in so easily.

“As much as Kento deserves it, I’m not getting myself off in his bed,” Kitayama answered. “That’s not cool.”

“Getting yourself off in my bed is?” Fujigaya said.

“You sure didn’t object before.” Kitayama smirked at him, eyes low-lidded, and then she gave a breathy sigh that stood all of Fujigaya’s arm hair on end. Fuck it, he decided, if this was the sort of junior high, sports camp action that got Kitayama off, then the faster the better. Maybe it would actually knock him out, who knew.

Fujigaya slid a hand into his sweatpants and wrapped a hand around himself, already starting to get interested. He didn’t even flinch when Kitayama yanked the blankets down so that nothing was blocking her view.

“I said I was interested in seeing it,” Kitayama pointed out when Fujigaya rolled his eyes. She settled back, watching Fujigaya stroke himself unashamedly. “If I wanted to just imagine it, I didn’t have to come the whole way over here.”

No point in holding back, Fujigaya didn’t try to keep from watching himself as Kitayama rolled her hips into her own touch. Her sweatpants hid some of the action, but it was good anyway, the thin fabric not hiding much of the motion of her wrist and fingers or the flush that was spreading from Kitayama’s throat down.

“Mmm,” Kitayama purred in approval, apparently feeling the same way about Fujigaya’s sweatpants blocking some of the action, although now that he was fully hard, the tip of his cock poked out over his waistband when he was at the end of each stroke. “It’s almost hotter that I can’t see all of you, leaves something to the imagination.”

“You hardly have to imagine it,” Fujigaya said, voice starting to catch as he got more worked up. “You’ve seen enough of it to know what it looks like.” He swiped his thumb over the head of his cock, and Kitayama made a low noise.

“Just like that,” she encouraged, the rocking of her hand matching the rhythm Fujigaya was using on himself. “Show me how you like it when you touch yourself. That slow? You like to take your time?”

“Fuck, shut up,” Fujigaya growled, Kitayama’s low, coaxing voice making his stomach twist, the sound going right to his cock and making it twitch against his fingers. He was too close to stop even when Kitayama reached over with her free hand and grabbed a handful of his sweatpants, yanking them further down his hips. He groaned when his cock hit the air fully, the air feeling cool against his flushed skin.

“So hard,” Kitayama said, “looks so good, Taisuke. Are you close? Lemme help you, please? I wanna touch you so much, don’t make me stay all the way over here.”

“Please,” Fujigaya gave in, completely past sense, all the control he’d been working so hard on totally undone by Kitayama’s dark eyes and sweet voice. “Touch me, please.”

Kitayama drew her hand back out of her sweats and reached over without wasting another breath, wrapping her hand around Fujigaya’s so that they were stroking him together. Her fingers were slick from touching herself, and Fujigaya whined embarrassingly loud as he snapped his hips into the touch.

“Come on, almost there.” Kitayama shifted closer, adjusting her grip and squeezing tightly enough to make Fujigaya’s heart race. “Say my name.”

“Hiromi,” Fujigaya gasped, eyes squeezing shut as the beginnings of his orgasm raced through his veins like fire, “Hiromi, oh, Hiro…”

“Mm, yeah.” Kitayama stroked him through it, grip easing as he shivered himself out but still working him lightly until he drew a deep, shuddering breath. “Easy, easy. Geez, you came a ton, when was the last time you even did that?”

Fujigaya got his eyes open to give her a baleful look, but Kitayama only chuckled. Then she lifted her hand to her mouth to suck one of her fingers clean, watching Fujigaya’s face the whole time.

“You are too fucking much,” Fujigaya complained, moaning weakly when his cock twitched about a million years too soon. He reached over to tug at Kitayama’s sweats with clumsy fingers. “Off. Now.”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Kitayama said, stripping them off along with her underwear in one smooth push and tossing them aside without looking where they landed. Her eyes went wide though when Fujigaya rolled himself over to settle between her legs. “What? Are you really–”

“Just shut up already,” Fujigaya ordered, hooking his arms under Kitayama’s thighs and hitching her up into easier reach. She groaned shamelessly at the first lick to her folds, already wet from touching herself, Kitayama’s taste salty and heavy on his tongue. Fujigaya dipped his tongue into her as deeply as he could, then worked his way up until Kitayama was rocking up against his mouth desperately despite his tight grip.

“Taisuke…” She all but chanted his name as she dragged fingers through his hair over and over. “More, Taisuke, please…”

Fujigaya traced her folds with his tongue, letting go of her thigh with one hand to slide fingers inside of her, groaning softly at how wet and tight she was. Kitayama squeezed around his fingers and tugged on Fujigaya’s hair harder as he explored, ignoring her hint to quit teasing and get serious.

It wasn’t until she yanked his hair hard enough to sting that Kitayama got him to move back up to where she really wanted him. Once he focused on the right spot with the tip of his tongue, Kitayama only needed another minute to come, surprisingly quiet as she bore down on Fujigaya’s fingers. Fujigaya could feel the pulse of her orgasm where his tongue was still pressed against her, dragging a groan out of him as well.

Kitayama went limp under him, sighing as Fujigaya tugged his fingers free. He wiped his hand on the sheet and eased up enough that he could sprawl on top of her, cheek pressed against the warm, soft skin of Kitayama’s belly. Kitayama’s hands were still caught in his hair, and after a minute she went back to running her fingers through it, but gently instead of pulling, working out the tangles she’d scrunched into Fujigaya’s hair.

“This doesn’t change anything,” Fujigaya said once he’d caught his breath. “I still–”

“Could you just shut up?” Kitayama cut him off, voice heavy with sleep. “Please. I can only worry about one thing at a time, and it’s our first batch of full concerts. Or mine, anyway, with you. Just for this weekend, I don’t want to fight. Just leave it be.”

Fujigaya couldn’t work up any energy to keep arguing. He let it drop, let his heavy eyelids close like they wanted to and Kitayama’s warm fingers lull him into sleep.

8)Kiss of fate and miracle confession

The Sapporo shows went smoothly for the most part. There were some small lighting and costume switch problems, Senga tripping over a cord and nearly spilling off the stage before Kitayama made a lucky grab, Tamamori hitting himself in the face with a drumstick, Fujigaya forgetting which of the half a dozen versions of their debut single they were doing and creating an impromptu solo when he started singing the last chorus in the middle of the dance break.

All of it was minor, though, and the audience response was enthusiastic. Even Yokoo seemed to think they were in good shape, and handed out a fair amount of praise.

“I know the last few months haven’t been easy for any of us,” Yokoo said after the second show on Saturday was finished. “But because of all your hard work, you’re showing a much stronger Sunshine to me and to the fans. The change is amazing.”

“No need for applause,” Kitayama said loftily, making Senga giggle and everyone else roll their eyes.

After the first night, Kitayama didn’t show any signs of changing rooms back with Senga, and Fujigaya didn’t even try to argue. It was convenient even, having one bed to make all mess, and then getting to crawl into the clean bed when they had exhausted each other and had regained enough of their senses to stumble from one bed to the other. Kitayama made Fujigaya forget about everything except for the heat of her skin and the strength of her hands, wearing him out so that he actually slept instead of lying awake and fretting over every song and step and moment of the concerts.

“Who are you and what have you done with the real Taipi?” Senga wanted to know when Fujigaya spent the hour before Sunday’s first show lazing about backstage rather than working himself up into a state. Rather than answer, Fujigaya made a grab for Senga and roughed up his hair until Senga whined for mercy.

It couldn’t last forever, though. As soon as they were back home, Fujigaya put his foot down again with Kitayama, trying his best to keep his distance, to focus on work. Kitayama in turn would wait until Fujigaya’s defenses were wearing thin and then back him into a corner, sometimes literally.

“This is really not okay,” Fujigaya hissed at her, his back pressed the cold glass of the practice room’s mirror. They were the last two left in the room; the others had left already but hadn’t gotten far, and Fujigaya could hear the murmur of Senga and Yara’s voices on the other side of the door.

“Shhh,” Kitayama urged, lips dragging down Fujigaya’s throat. Fujigaya swallowed as much of his groan as he could, his head falling back to thunk against the mirror, baring more of his throat to Kitayama’s mouth. “Unless you want them to come back in here.” Kitayama nipped Fujigaya’s skin, and Fujigaya’s hips snapped up against the deliberate roll of Kitayama’s. She chuckled, low and full of heat. “Mm, would you like an audience, Tai-chan? It’s not usually my thing, but if you’re so into it…”

Fujigaya couldn’t do anything but cling desperately as Kitayama worked a hand into his practice sweats and stroked him off, murmuring in his ear the entire time how good he looked, totally worth watching, how she wouldn’t mind if he turned them around and took her from behind, so they could both watch in the mirrors. It was all Fujigaya could do not to moan loud enough to bring everybody running as he spilled over Kitayama’s hand and then slumped against the mirror, shaking and unable to catch his breath.

“Next time,” she promised, wrapping fingers tight around Fujigaya’s wrist and pushing his hand down into her own sweatpants, rocking against him as soon as his fingers were within reach.

It turned into a vicious cycle; Fujigaya struggling to keep control of himself only made Kitayama try harder to wear him down, and Kitayama’s open rebellion against Fujigaya’s rules about work and touching and sex with bandmates only made Fujigaya more determined not to give in, to outlast her.

But it couldn’t last, the struggle of it absorbing all of both of their attention and leaving room for next to nothing else. Distraction was exactly the reason Fujigaya was trying to avoid Kitayama in the first place, focus on their upcoming concerts all but impossible when Kitayama was squirming against him or underneath him, hot and willing and sweet-voiced, coaxing him to lose himself in her.

In the end, surprisingly, it was Kitayama who finally put a stop to it. She came into Fujigaya’s room while he was working, and Fujigaya’s shoulders hunched a little as if expecting to be pounced at any second, even as a little arousal warmed his skin out of habit. Kitayama didn’t make any move to touch him this time, though, only came across the room and sat on the end of his bed.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she said, voice tired. Fujigaya put down his pencil and turned in his chair to face her. Kitayama looked tired as well, shoulders lacking their usual confident set, the beginnings of dark smudges under her eyes. “Chasing after you. It’s exhausting.”

You can’t do this anymore?” Fujigaya asked, irritation sparking in his chest. “Then quit it! I’ve been saying we shouldn’t be doing this the entire time! What the fuck?”

“No,” Kitayama corrected, “that part’s not the problem. It’s the way I have to keep winning you over, and over and over, from scratch every single time. Who can keep doing that? Anybody else would have quit ages ago.”

“Then stop doing it,” Fujigaya growled. Kitayama was looking at him evenly, and the calmer she seemed the more it made him want to fight properly, to get her angry too. “Who’s even asking you to do that! Everything would be find if you’d just–”

“It’s not fine,” Kitayama interrupted, twisting her fingers in Fujigaya’s bedspread a little. “I’m not like you, I can’t lie to myself all the time. I can’t just accept the way I feel and not do anything about it. I like you, I might even love you, but mostly I just want you. I can’t stand right next to you, so close, and feel like this and not do something about it.”

For several breaths, an awkward silence hung between them. Fujigaya’s breath had caught at the off the cuff confession, and he felt like he still couldn’t catch it, couldn’t draw enough air into his lungs to process any of this.

“So?” he finally asked. “What then?”

“I can’t stay here, like this,” Kitayama said. Her direct gaze was making Fujigaya uncomfortable, but he couldn’t pull his eyes away either. “In this house. In Sunshine.”

“What?” Stunned, Fujigaya felt like he’d just been slapped across the face. Maybe that would have been preferable to this, honestly.

“It would be different if you told me you wouldn’t, and you meant it,” Kitayama went on. “But you don’t mean it. You’ll keep letting me force you into it. Sooner or later you’re going to start hating me for it, you know. I’m surprised you don’t already, even a little.”

“It isn’t like that,” Fujigaya muttered, very uncomfortable at how close to the mark that was.

“But it will be.” Kitayama reached over to put a hand over one of Fujigaya’s where they were fisted in his lap, squeezing his hand a little with her warm fingers. “I don’t know why you think you have to choose between me and Sunshine, but I can’t seem to prove otherwise to you. I don’t know how else to get through to you. If you won’t change your mind, it’s best if I go.”

“Go where?” Fujigaya wanted to know.

“Home, for now.” Kitayama pulled her hand back. “You should stop me.”

“How am I supposed to stop you doing anything?!” Fujigaya demanded, trying to shove down the panic that was closing up his chest, sticking in his throat. He threw her own words back at her. “This isn’t a missile launch, isn’t that what you said?”

“You could tell me to stay, and mean it.” Kitayama was watching Fujigaya’s face intently, her eyes pleading, but the rest of her expression said she already knew what his answer would be. “Tell me to stay.”

“What does it even matter, if you’ve already decided?” Fujigaya said, not feeling even a little like playing along. “Since when do you do anything I ask you to?”

Kitayama didn’t argue. She simply kept looking at him with that same flat look, and Fujigaya stared back stubbornly. Finally she nodded once, like she hadn’t expected anything else, and stood up.

“If you change your mind, I’m sure you can figure out where to find me.” Kitayama brushed Fujigaya’s hair back with her fingers and leaned down to press lips against his forehead.

Long after she had quietly shut the door behind her, Fujigaya could still feel the press of her lips against his skin, no matter how often he reached up to rub at it, no matter how hard he pressed.

The next morning, Kitayama was standing in the living room with her duffle bag over her shoulder, trying to peel Senga off gently.

“It’s only a few days,” she said, the excuse she had given him and Tamamori that she was going home to help her mother out with some things. Senga wasn’t fooled so easily, though, giving Fujigaya a pleading look over Kitayama’s shoulder as he hugged her goodbye.

Fujigaya looked away, scowling. Even Tamamori seemed to have figured out something was going on, glancing back and forth between the other members nervously.

“What did you do?” Tamamori asked.

“Nothing,” Fujigaya said, voice flat. Tamamori snorted softly, disbelieving.

“Well, do something then!” Senga protested as Kitayama finally managed to push him back to arms’ length. “Tell her not to go!”

“She’s an adult, Kento. If she wants to stay, she’ll stay.”

“But you haven’t asked,” Senga insisted, and Fujigaya thought that it was no wonder he got along so well with Kitayama.

“Leave it,” Kitayama asked, squeezing Senga’s shoulder. “I’ll see you at practice this afternoon. I’m coming in to talk to Yokoo-san anyway.”

She was no sooner out the door than Senga and Tamamori exchanged one look before both rounding on Fujigaya.

“Tell us what you did,” Senga ordered, putting his hands on his hips. “Is Hiro quitting? Are you fighting? Just make up, before she does something crazy!”

“She can’t quit, we’re in the middle of a tour!” Tamamori said, looking alarmed. He pointed accusingly at Fujigaya. “You! Why can’t you just be normal about girls!”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Fujigaya cut them off, choosing to ignore Tamamori of all people getting on case for having normal girl relationships. “It’s between the two of us.”

“But,” Senga pressed, “if you just–”

“Why is it always me everybody assumes is the problem!” Fujigaya snapped, at the end of all his patience. “She’s been here like ten minutes and you’ve known me for four years! Why don’t you ever take my side!” It wasn’t a hurt that he’d meant to blurt out like that, but he didn’t take it back, even when Tamamori shifted uncomfortably and Senga’s big brown eyes filled up with guilt.

“It’s not like that, Taipi,” Senga said quietly. “We aren’t taking sides. We just want you to be happy.”

“Well, I’m not happy,” Fujigaya said bluntly. “And I don’t know how to make everybody else happy either, you or him or her or anybody. This is the best I can do.”

He turned without waiting for a response and went to go hide in his room until they had to leave for practice. He flopped onto his back on his bed and stared at the ceiling until eventually Yokoo came to knock firmly on his door and ask if he was done having his meltdown yet.

“She’s quitting, you know,” Yokoo said when Fujigaya did open the door, keeping his eyes mostly on the carpet. “She’ll finish the tour, and then she wants to be phased out.”

“Have you told the president yet?” Fujigaya asked dully.

“No, because I’m hoping you’ll come to your senses, since I can only assume this is some new crazyness between the two of you.” Yokoo sighed through his nose when Fujigaya didn’t even argue. “Is being happy really such a challenge for you? And don’t try to tell me you weren’t, in between the parts where you were actively trying to close yourself off to that.”

“Watta,” Fujigaya said, dragging his eyes up to Yokoo’s face, willing to admit to an old friend things he couldn’t to Tamamori or even Senga, “I just don’t have enough space inside of me for all of this. She makes it so I can’t see anything else, can’t feel anything else. I can’t be like this, and still be Sunshine’s Leader. I don’t even deserve to be in Sunshine right now.”

“Taisuke,” Yokoo sighed, shaking his head, but Fujigaya told him quietly that he just didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and they were already late to practice.

The next few days were bland for Fujigaya, vague and indistinct as they ran one into the next like one long blur. He went to work, practiced with the others, and sat through concert planning meetings, but it all felt the same as everything else did. True to her word, Kitayama did come to practice, but she stopped approaching Fujigaya directly about anything, letting him come to her if he had something to say, and in turn Fujigaya did his best to pretend he barely knew she was there.

Senga and Tamamori did their best to keep everything from being impossibly tense; unfortunately Tamamori was a terrible go-between, and Senga’s forced cheer was almost as awkward as the original problem. At first everyone else tried to stay out of Fujigaya’s way, presumably worried about catching him when he temper was at its worst, but honestly Fujigaya didn’t even feel angry. He felt blank, unsure what to do with himself, and unfocused. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to blow up over things, even things that would have set him off before any of this happened, the other staff and crew simply began to work around him, all but ignoring him as they went about their business.

Fujigaya felt like he was moving in slow motion and everything else was still going at normal speed, moving on without him.

“Man, what is up with you?” Kawai asked when he dragged Fujigaya along on one of Crazy Accel’s late-night group dates, even his group’s usual insanity failing to get much more out of Fujigaya than a strained smile. “I’ve never seen you like this over a woman. Is this the first time you’ve ever been dumped?”

“I…guess it is,” Fujigaya said, realizing Kawai was right. He’d ended plenty of relationships himself, or purposely caused them to end even if he hadn’t been the initiator of the breakup. He wondered if any of the few girls who had managed to last more than a few dates had felt like this, and found himself feeling strangely sympathetic towards them. “It sucks.”

“It does!” Kawai agreed, and even though Fujigaya knew he was trying to be sympathetic, he mostly looked relieved and a little proud, as if Fujigaya was a little brother who had finally joined the world of men. “Ah, it’s better to have loved and lost, right? You know what helps? Booze, lots of booze.”

Before Fujigaya could protest, Kawai had hopped out of his chair and strode off in the direction of the bar with purpose, leaving Fujigaya sitting awkwardly with the rest of Accel. Tsukada offered Fujigaya a sympathetic smile, but his attention was mostly absorbed by the winding story Hashimoto was telling him and Goseki from her seat between them, commanding their attention with practiced ease.

Totsuka was directly across from Fujigaya, though, eyeing him thoughtfully. Fujigaya felt like he ought to say something, but wasn’t sure what else there was to say besides “Sorry for stealing your girlfriend; maybe she would have been better off with you in the first place.” Totsuka came to the rescue and broke the silence by speaking first.

“I feel a lot better now,” was his comment.

Fujigaya blinked, no idea where to go with that. “Oh…yeah?”

“Seeing that Hiromi was so important to you,” Totsuka continued, shrugging, “it makes it a lot easier to swallow that I couldn’t measure up. But I do have to ask, could you not be so careless with the things people give you? It only makes them want to take them back.”

“She’s not a thing,” Fujigaya said, finding it harder and harder to use Kitayama’s name out loud over the last few days. “And it’s not like I lost her, I didn’t leave her on the train or something.” Totsuka started laughing, making Fujigaya raise an eyebrow.

“Sorry, it’s just,” Totsuka’s smile was weird, just like the rest of him, “wouldn’t she look so cute in the lost and found? Waiting patiently in the box and wearing mis-matched sweaters and hats that all got left behind.”

Kawai returned just then, rescuing Fujigaya from trying to continue that conversation, and Fujigaya gladly drank whatever it was that he’d brought back, entirely happy to occupy himself with alcohol and not have to talk so much unless he was ordering a refill. Eventually he’d drunk enough that he wasn’t even bothered by Hashimoto braiding his hair, slapping Goseki’s hand away when Goseki tried to get involved just to twirl bits of Fujigaya’s hair around his fingers.

“There,” she declared, sticking the pink umbrella from Fujigaya’s drink into the side for decoration. “All done.”

“Okay,” Fujigaya agreed, the room spinning a little when Hashimoto put her hands on either side of Fujigaya’s face and turned it this way and that, admiring her handiwork. Suddenly, Hashimoto’s grip on Fujigaya’s face tightened, making Fujigaya squeak as he was forced to meet Hashimoto’s gaze directly. “Eh?”

“It would be best if you made up with Hiro-chan,” Hashimoto informed him, but the steel of her gaze made Fujigaya feel like she wasn’t so much interested in Fujigaya’s well-being. Hashimoto smiled sweetly, but it was sort of terrifying. “Because Tottsu’s busy with us, got it? So she should keep herself busy too.”

Hashimoto nodded Fujigaya’s head for him and then released him. Ten seconds later she was giggling at something Tsukada was saying and sidling closer to Goseki, and Fujigaya turned to drop his head in Kawai’s lap rather than deal with any more of Accel’s advice.

The next morning was the day before their Yokohama shows started, and the glory of playing so close to home was that Fujigaya could sleep off his Accel-induced hangover, pulling his covers over his head and ignoring the rest of the world for the whole morning.

Or at least, that was the plan. In reality he was rudely awakened by someone yanking all his blankets off.

“Whaaaat?” Fujigaya whined piteously, head pounding. Squinting, he saw Senga and Tamamori looming over him, both wearing determined expressions. “Oh god, go away.”

“Get up,” Senga ordered. “Now.”

“Shower!” Tamamori added. “Because ew. What were you even doing with Kawai last night? If I were bed-san, I’d demand an apology.”

Fujigaya whined harder, but they both grabbed an arm and hauled him out of bed. He dragged his feet the entire way as they shoved him into his bathroom, and Tamamori held onto his shoulders to keep him from escaping while Senga leaned in to start the water warming up.

“Now are you gonna strip?” Senga asked, crossing his arms and eyeing Fujigaya, all business. “Or are we gonna do it for you? You won’t enjoy that as much as usual, I promise.”

“You know there’s an umbrella in your hair, right?” Tamamori asked, getting a better look at Fujigaya’s sleep-mussed updo, strands falling out all over the place. “It’s pink.”

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it, just get the fuck out,” Fujigaya finally snapped, shoving at them until he was mercifully alone.

“You aren’t getting any coffee until you come out here clean!” Senga called through the door.

“And with pants on!” Tamamori added.

Eventually Fujigaya did emerge, headache down to a dull pounding from the hot water. Senga and Tamamori were waiting for him, sitting on his bed, apparently not trusting him to do anything other than crawl back into it if they weren’t there to supervise. Fujigaya gave them a glare and tugged on the first pair of jeans he could lay his hands on, along with a shirt that he’d thrown over his chair a few days ago. “There, satisfied?”

“Sure,” Senga said, hopping up and reaching for Fujigaya’s wrist. “Come on.”

When Senga and Tamamori dragged him out to the living room, Fujigaya found not just Yokoo, but also Nikaido and Miyata waiting for them.

“Seriously, what the hell is this?” Fujigaya asked, not at all awake enough for this.

“It’s an intervention,” Yokoo informed him. “Now sit down and shut up.”

Fujigaya flopped down in the middle of the white couch and folded his arms, looking up at all of them grumpily. “Well?”

“Tsuka-chan called,” Miyata explained, hands fisted in the pockets of his staff tour hoodie and looking uncomfortable but determined. “He said we let things go way too far.”

“When Tsuka-chan starts making sense, that’s how you know the trip has gone bad,” Nikaido snorted.

“So I asked Miyata to prepare a very special director’s cut of the footage from the recent shows,” Yokoo explained, holding up the remote to Sunshine’s flatscreen television. “Let’s watch, shall we?”

He thumbed the remote and the DVD player whirred softly as the DVD spun up. The title screen came up, one of Sunshine’s album cover shots with the subtitle, “Tour Making of Special Collection, Fujigaya Taisuke Version.”

“You dweeb,” Tamamori accused, nudging Miyata with his elbow, but he didn’t move away when Miyata only leaned his cheek against Tamamori’s shoulder. “Is there a Tama Version?”

“Of course there is,” Miyata chuckled.

“Focus!” Yokoo ordered, making them quiet down.

The DVD began to play bits and pieces of the off-shot footage from their concerts so far, but only the pieces where Fujigaya was talking or featured directly. Fujigaya felt like he was watching a version of himself from another universe, laughing and running around like an idiot across the catwalks during the Sapporo shows, stage-high and silly as he shoved and pushed at the other members on the way by.

Backstage at Nagoya, Senga was holding the camera and forcing Tamamori to do a fake interview first thing in the morning, which was hilarious if not so much on point. Fujigaya didn’t realize why they were watching that particular scene until Senga panned the camera slightly right, and focused over Tamamori’s shoulder where Fujigaya and Kitayama were both dozing on the couch. Kitayama was stretched out along the length of it, head in Fujigaya’s lap, and Fujigaya’s magazine had fallen on her face when he dropped off himself, his head having fallen back against the back of the couch. One of them was snoring cutely.

“So cute, aww, Leader time,” Senga cooed on the tape, and there was an explosion of giggles from him and Tamamori, until Fujigaya stirred and told them to shut the hell up, peeling the magazine off of Kitayama’s face to throw at them. Kitayama didn’t stir during the whole clip, other than her deep, steady breathing.

In Niigata, they were trying to practice one of the new songs, but in the center of the stage Kitayama’s expression was completely serious while she sang alternate, obscene lyrics. Every time Fujigaya’s voice cracked with a snicker, she would give him a stern look as if she didn’t understand why he wasn’t practicing seriously, until Fujigaya was laughing hard enough that he gave up playing entirely and was nearly doubled over. He had purposely moved away from the mic so it wouldn’t pick up his obnoxious laugh, but you could tell just from how hard his shoulders were shaking that he was nearly crying from it.

At Sendai, Tamamori was filming the venue itself during first stage rehearsal, panning over the empty seats and pausing to zoom when Miyata noticed and waved wildly from the back. When he kept on panning the whole way around, he caught Fujigaya in frame and paused there to focus. Fujigaya didn’t notice, leaning on the edge of the stage and totally absorbed in watching Kitayama practice her dance break with Senga.

“I don’t want to watch any more,” Fujigaya announced, shifting uncomfortably at the expression on his own face caught on film, single-minded and adoring, not noticing that Tamamori was calling his name until the third try. Fujigaya on the tape turned and startled when he realized he was being filmed, pulling a few faces and then doing a silly body roll for the camera until he motioned for Tamamori to come over and switch the camera over to him.

“We’ve only watched the first part of this presentation, though,” Yokoo informed him. “That was the before footage. Here’s the after.” He pointed the remote at the television and clicked forward.

The Fujigaya who appeared on the television after that was an entirely different person. Even on the grainy footage which was obviously from someone’s phone, he looked distracted during meetings and lost as he let Nikaido push different pieces of costume onto him and then pull them off again. The worst was the footage of him doing a run-through of his solo from the tour during stage rehearsal just yesterday, bad enough that Fujigaya had to fight to keep from cringing.

There wasn’t anything technically wrong with it; Fujigaya wasn’t late or flat, his voice winding through the notes the same way they always did. But that almost made it worse, only serving to highlight how flat and lifeless the song sounded, how little fire it had. Fujigaya’s heart clearly wasn’t in it, and it showed in every note and every chord.

Yokoo paused the DVD and looked down at Fujigaya, along with everyone else. “Anything to say?”

“Can we talk about how you people have all been filming me with your phones like complete stalkers for days?” Fujigaya asked, just to stall.

Taisuke.”

“It’s bad, okay?” Fujigaya had to look away, slumping against the couch. “I know it’s bad.”

“Do you know what you’re going to do about it?” Yokoo asked, tone pointed.

Fujigaya snuck a glance up at his stern expression, to Senga and Tamamori’s obvious worry, to Nikaido who looked like she was going to break his legs for his own good and Miyata who was still anxiously knuckling the inside of his hoodie pockets. “No, but it seems like you all have a solution you’re just dying to tell me.”

“God, could you stop being such a selfish dick for three seconds?” Nikaido exploded, making Miyata and Tamamori both jump. “What is even your problem?”

“Selfish?!” Fujigaya spluttered, hands balling into fists. “I’ve put all my energy and attention into Sunshine all this time, don’t you dare call me selfish! It’s all fun and cutesy fan-service on stage, but what’s the plan for when I’m so distracted that I can’t write our next release? When I make fools of us on some stupid television appearance? This whole thing is because I keep trying to put Sunshine first!”

“We know, but,” Tamamori spoke up, drawing Fujigaya up short a second because Tamamori hadn’t stood up to him while he was yelling even once in all the time they’d been together, “the thing is, Sunshine looked so much better while Hiro was here. And now that she’s not…I don’t want to show this kind of face to our fans.”

“Because you’re terrified of them, we know.” Fujigaya rolled his eyes.

“Because it’s embarrassing when I know what we could do and then look at what we are doing,” Tamamori corrected. “I should know, I’m embarrassing enough. So you can stop helping.”

“Why don’t you understand what I’m telling you?” Fujigaya said, thoroughly exasperated. “I want her here too, okay? I miss her too!”

“Say her name,” Senga ordered. “You haven’t said it once since she left, just say it, already!”

Fujigaya drew in a slow breath, trying to hold on to his temper. “I miss Kitayama too. More than you can imagine, but when she’s here…she takes up all the space there is inside me.” Fujigaya let his eyes closed, so tired of fighting and explaining and trying to be reasonable. “There’s no space left for anything else.”

“That’s love, idiot,” Nikaido informed him. She whacked Senga in the shoulder. “I thought you said you explained it!”

“I did all the complicated ones!” Senga protested. “Who needs love explained to them?!”

“Taipi,” Tamamori, Miyata, and Nikaido all answered in unison. Fujigaya opened his eyes to glare at them balefully, then looked at Yokoo instead, the only halfway reasonable person present.

“How am I supposed to hold all of that and all of you inside me all at once?” Fujigaya asked. “How does anybody do that?”

“They grow,” Yokoo said simply. “Until all the things they love fit inside them.”

“Don’t you remember growth spurts?” Senga asked. “They hurt, and it feels like everything is the end of the world. But you wouldn’t want to stay little forever, right? Even this guy turned out all right.” He jerked a thumb towards Tamamori.

“Hey!” Tamamori said.

“And he was a bigger cry baby than even you are,” Senga continued.

“HEY!”

“So, in conclusion,” Yokoo interrupted before they got violent, bringing the focus back to Fujigaya, “would you please go pick up your other main vocalist and bring her back home where she belongs? It isn’t like you can play the new guitar parts yourself anyway.”

“Even if I wanted to,” Fujigaya stared at the ground, “I don’t know what to say to her.”

“She already told you, stupid,” Senga reminded. “Weren’t you listening? She told you tell her to stay.”

“You should have just done it in the first place!” Tamamori exclaimed. “You should have run outside and chased her bus down!”

“This isn’t a Korean drama,” Fujigaya said, fighting back against the tiny smile that was tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Also she has a car.”

“Fortunately, so do you,” Yokoo stepped in, reaching down to stick a sticky note right to Fujigaya’s forehead. “That’s the address of Kitayama’s mother’s apartment. So get going already, and don’t bother coming back unless you have the rest of your band with you.” He eyed Fujigaya as Fujigaya opened his mouth to protest. “Or I’ll send Yuta to pick you up.”

“Okay, geez,” Fujigaya relented. “There’s no need to threaten serious shit like that.”

A half an hour later, Fujigaya was dithering in front of the Kitayama’s apartment door, wondering if maybe being killed by Tamamori’s driving wouldn’t have been quicker and less terrifying than facing Kitayama’s mother. You’re being ridiculous, he told himself, and reached up to push the bell. For about a minute he stood there hoping that they wouldn’t be home, before the door swung open.

“Oh god,” Fujigaya’s mouth said out loud without any permission from his brain, “there are two of you.”

Kitayama-san, who was more or less a carbon copy of Hiromi give or take some laugh lines and a woman’s haircut, eyed Fujigaya with a look he had seen on Kitayama’s face about a thousand times since she had joined Sunshine. “So you’re the one, huh? I’ve certainly heard enough about you lately.”

“Er,” Fujigaya said, Tamamori’s driving looking better and better.

Kitayama-san’s gaze got narrower, like she was trying to see through Fujigaya’s skull and into his brain. “Are you going to finally tell me what is going on? Did you knock my daughter up?”

“MOM!” Kitayama shouted from behind her mother, just as all the blood drained from Fujigaya’s face. Kitayama tugged her mother back out of the doorway so that she could see Fujigaya. “I’m not pregnant, god. Look what you did to him! Don’t faint in my hallway, the neighbors will talk.”

“I’m not going to faint!” Fujigaya bluffed, trying to take deep, slow breaths without looking at all like he was doing that.

“Hmph.” Kitayama looked Fujigaya over, like she wasn’t convinced. “Well, come in. We can talk in my room. And don’t you dare try and eavesdrop either,” Kitayama warned her mother. “I’m twenty-six, not sixteen.”

“Wouldn’t know it from all the drama around here,” Kitayama-san said, arms crossed. Kitayama rolled her eyes and shooed her mother back to the living room and her television.

Kitayama tugged Fujigaya past her mother and down the hallway. Once they were in her room, Kitayama pushed the door firmly shut behind her and waved Fujigaya to sit down. “What?” she asked when Fujigaya looked around with open curiosity.

“Your room isn’t what I was picturing,” Fujigaya said, looking from the Mia Ham poster to the pile of shounen manga stacked precariously high on the edge of the desk. He leaned in to examine a certificate tacked to the wall. “You’re an 8dan in calligraphy?”

“You bet your sweet ass I am,” she said proudly. “I can write the shit out of more kanji than you can probably read.” Kitayama paused. “You know, that’s a much bigger claim when I’m not talking to somebody from Domoto’s.”

You’re from Domoto’s, jerk,” Fujigaya retorted. He sat down on her bed, which wasn’t made and looked like she’d been basically nesting there since she’d come home. He waved a hand at the messy pile of blankets. “Catching up on your sleep?”

“Since there’s nobody to keep me up all night.” Kitayama shrugged, sitting down beside Fujigaya, but far enough away that there was no way to touch accidentally. “Speaking of that…”

Fujigaya fidgeted, not very excited about trying to start the serious conversation. “They had an intervention for me this morning.”

“Drugs would explain a lot,” Kitayama said evenly. “Especially about your solo costume.”

“About you, thank you.” Fujigaya gave her a withering look. “They had a multimedia presentation done by Miyata, it was all very professional. Also I’m pretty sure if I sent you but didn’t come back myself, they’d be okay with that.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Kitayama said, but a small smile did creep onto her face.

“It’s not.” Fujigaya was finding it harder and harder to keep looking at Kitayama directly, but he forced himself to keep his gaze up. “Please don’t leave. We need you. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t find another fourth member who fits as well as you do.”

“I know,” Kitayama said, expression sympathetic. “But that isn’t the problem. It doesn’t change anything.”

“I know that I said I had to choose Sunshine over you,” Fujigaya went on, groping for the right words, “but you are Sunshine. It’s only been a few months and I can hardly remember anymore what we did without you. I feel overwhelmed all the time and totally out of control when I’m near you, and I hate it, but without you…it feels like there’s nothing worth getting out of control over anymore. Kento says love is supposed to feel like that.”

“That’s only because he’s in love with Nika, of course he’s never in control,” Kitayama pointed out. She slid a little closer, until their shoulders touched. “So? You love me?”

“I don’t know. It hurts.” Fujigaya gave up and dropped his gaze to his hands. His cheeks felt hot and his hands were clammy. “I want you, and I want to strangle you, and I don’t know what to do with myself without you. I don’t know what I’ll do if you leave and I can’t ever be next to you again. I guess that’s why drama characters chase all those buses.”

“You do,” Kitayama said, voice quiet and awed. “I didn’t think you’d ever figure it out.”

Fujigaya snorted. “Ken-chan-sensei strikes again.” Kitayama covered one of Fujigaya’s hands with her own, lacing their fingers together. “You too? You said…”

“I don’t know,” Kitayama admitted. “But for sure I want you. Seems like a good place to start.”

“So you’ll come home?” Fujigaya asked, heart tripping over itself from nerves. When he looked up, Kitayama was watching him with dark eyes.

“You haven’t said it yet,” Kitayama said. “The most important thing. You could have just said it the first time, and saved us all this trouble.”

“Stay,” Fujigaya said, squeezing Kitayama’s hand like he was afraid she would slip away if he didn’t cling so tightly. “I don’t want you to go.”

“Mm.” Kitayama nodded, examining his face carefully. “Have I mentioned how much I like that you can’t lie worth a damn? Don’t ever change that.”

Before Fujigaya could respond, Kitayama leaned in and pressed her mouth firmly over top of his. Dizzy with relief, Fujigaya let go of Kitayama’s hand to wrap arms around her waist and drag her as close as possible. Kitayama wrapped arms around Fujigaya’s neck and worked her hand up into his hair, her mouth opening under his. She tugged his hair a little harder, making Fujigaya groan into her mouth.

Things were just getting serious when Kitayama’s mother threw the door open on the flimsy excuse of offering them tea, nearly giving Fujigaya a heart attack.

“See?” Kitayama-san demanded. “This is exactly like when you were sixteen!”

“It’s not anything like that! For one thing, I keep telling you, he’s a guy!” Kitayama insisted. “He’s in a boyband, for fuck’s sake!”

“Well, they let you in, didn’t they?” Kitayama-san pointed out, and Fujigaya rolled over and tried to smother himself with one of Kitayama’s pillows. 


Epilogue

The Yokohama shows rushed by in a blur. The shows always seemed more intense closer to home, the lights brighter and the music louder, the fans more enthusiastic. Filming for the DVD was the last day of the venue as well, and that always added an extra layer of pressure and adrenaline.

“There’s a ton of guys out there, huh?” Senga said, grinning in amazement as they came out under the stage to strip off their costumes after the last encore of the first show. “Thanks to Hiro-chan~.”

“Mm, you’re welcome,” Kitayama said smugly, then turned to elbow Tamamori. “But I hear there’s a certain kind of male fan that likes Tama-chan an awful lot.”

“It’s not funny!” Tamamori wailed, totally touchy still about their news that had been revealed to them during the MCs yesterday as a surprise. It turned out President Domoto had finally gotten a drama offer that he thought would work out a little better for Tamamori.

It was a BL drama, and Tamamori was romantic lead.

“Shush, you’ll love it,” Nikaido said, all business as she made sure they hung up all their costume pieces properly and re-ordered them for the second show. “You won’t even hardly have to act. Kenpi, those aren’t even your pants! Put those down!”

Fujigaya just shook his head over by his own costume rack, the farthest one on the end. His costumes were all a mess because he had the smallest costume turnaround out of any of them, and so it always took him the longest to sort it back out and reset to zero. He was just finishing when Miyata popped up, out of breath from having to go down all the stairs the long way around the fangirls (and boys, now, apparently).

“Still making weird noises?” he asked, and Fujigaya nodded, handing over his earpiece. It had been acting up during the second half of the concert, badly enough that Fujigaya had pulled it out for a few songs and depended on the other members to keep him in time, even though that was risky in a venue this large, large enough to cause significant time delay between them and the speakers. “It must be picking up feedback from somewhere…”

“At least I can trust you,” Nikaido sighed, coming over to check on Fujigaya’s costume rack. She nodded in approval and turned to watch Miyata diddling with the ear pierce. “So how does it feel to be the boyfriend of a soon-to-be-famous BL star?”

Miyata grinned so hard his eyes disappeared. “I get to help him practice.”

“His lines,” Fujigaya finished for him, clicking his tongue.

“Sure, whatever,” Miyata agreed, grin not dimming even a tiny bit.

“You know they’re over there talking about us, right?” Nikaido asked. Fujigaya and Miyata looked over to where Kitayama and Tamamori were in a knot around Senga’s costume rack, obviously gossiping while they tried to sort out Senga’s self-manufactured disaster.

Something Kitayama said made all three of them burst into snickers, and Fujigaya decided it was better not to know.

“Girl time,” Miyata said sagely. He and Fujigaya turned to look at Nikaido at the same time.

“Fuck that,” Nikaido announced. “Girls are fucking crazy.”

“Is it just me or did this conversation suddenly turn uncomfortable?” Fujigaya asked, and then all three of them split up in mutual agreement.

“Hey,” Kitayama said, sidling up just as Fujigaya was hanging up his last costume. Flashing him a sharp grin, she grabbed his wrist and dragged him off, back further into the dark recesses of the scaffolding under the stage. They weren’t hidden exactly, the scaffolding all open metal lattices, but there were enough nooks and crannies that once they were away from the main throughway between the stage and the dressing rooms that no one was likely to stumble over them.

“You can’t be serious,” Fujigaya said as Kitayama shoved him back against one of the supports. She kissed him rather than answer, stretching up on her toes to press as close as she could. Kitayama’s skin was hot and sweat-slick under his hands, thrumming all over from concert adrenaline. She dragged lips down Fujigaya’s throat and Fujigaya let his head tip back. “We only slept like two hours! Are you trying to kill me?”

Kitayama paused long enough to blink up at him innocently. “If you can’t keep up, Tai-chan, we could always ask Kento or Tama to help tire me out. I hear Miyacchi can last ages.”

“Don’t joke about that shit,” Fujigaya growled, digging his fingers into Kitayama’s skin a little tightly. She rubbed against him, all but purring. “Tell me you don’t talk about shit like that with those idiots.”

“What do you think girl time is for?” Kitayama winked. She laughed outright when Fujigaya’s face screwed up into a sour expression. “Relax, Taisuke, it’s a joke. One of you at a time is more than enough for me. Now hurry up, I’ve been desperate ever since you spend all of your solo stroking your mic stand like you were jerking yourself off.”

“Oh yeah?” Fujigaya slid hands into Kitayama’s back pockets to squeeze her ass, making her wriggle against him in the best possible way. “I won’t even tell you what I’ve been wanting to do to you since you decided your intro dance break would be eight counts of you proving to a whole arena that you know exactly how to ride on top.”

That made Kitayama laugh out loud as she pulled one of Fujigaya’s hands back around to the front. “Actually,” she suggested as she put his palm flat against her belly and started pushing down, “I think you ought to tell me exactly what you want to do to me. Mm, in great detail.”

“Do you?” Fujigaya leaned in to murmur right against Kitayama’s ear, making her shiver and hook an arm around his neck for balance. She was already hot and slick when he worked his hand low enough to push fingers inside of her, waiting for him. “I had no idea you were that kind of girl.”

“Yeah, well,” Kitayama’s breath hitched as she started moving with him, pushing against his touch, and when she shook her hair out of her eyes, the smile she gave him was all heat and want, “stick around a while, Tai-chan, and I’ll show you exactly what kind of girl I am.”

“I’d rather figure it out myself, actually,” Fujigaya told her, capturing her mouth again before she revealed all her secrets, and not letting go until she went entirely to pieces against him.

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