Back to Chapter 1
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.
Go to Chapter 3