Back to Chapter 3
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.
Go to Chapter 5