The cheers were deafening. Nothing could be heard over the incoherent chanting of the audience. Soft orange and pink lights swept over the slick black of the stage before it all went dark. A booming voice masked the heavy thud of combat boots over the stage.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Those of all ages! Welcome to Musustafu Stadium. You’re here tonight to witness the one… the only… Present Mic!”
The orange and pink spotlights flooded the stage, illuminating long blond hair swooped up into a tall mountain of hairspray, gel, and various other hair products. Red sunglasses glinted in the same light. “Yeahhhhhhh!!!” Present Mic’s voice echoed through the sound system and the audience screamed with the same enthusiasm. “Are you…. Readyyyy?!”
The pop star could only see the first two rows of fans, many young girls and the odd parents here and there. The mothers seemed just as taken as the young girls did, the fathers less so. Present Mic seemingly bounced around on stage, allowing his persona to do all the work of belting out lyrics and entertaining the audience.
Hizashi leaned into the mirror in his dressing room. Between his fingers, he twirled the ends of his mustache, glitter falling from it. He groaned. “No one even notices the glitter, why do I have to wear it?” His makeup artist sighed and ushered him back into his chair. “No, seriously, Emi. I always end up wearing it for weeks.”
“Maybe they’re trying to get you to shave!” Emi said seriously.
“Excuse me, this mustache is my signature!” Hizashi’s eyes were wide with indignation. “If not for the mustache, there would be no Present Mic!” Emi began laughing as she scrubbed the layers of makeup from his face. Hizashi began to laugh along. He knew she liked to pull his leg, and yet he still fell for it every time.
“It gets me every time! I love the mustache. I would never forgive you if you got rid of it.” She emphasized her statement by rubbing said mustache with a makeup wipe. She held up the evidence of golden glitter. “Just a few specks left. You should go shower though. Get that tower nice and taken care of.” Hizashi nodded and waved her hands away from his face.
He got up from his chair in front of his vanity, feet complaining after the abuse of the night. There was a pristine shower waiting for him back at his hotel.
The promise of plush towels, silken pajamas, and fluffy sheets could only come after he tackled his hair. It took Hizashi all too long to struggle out to the tight leather pants he wore along with the rest of his clothes before he could step into the hot water.
When Hizashi stepped out of the shower, he wrapped his hair in a towel and patted his body dry, taking time to moisturize and make sure everything was the way it was supposed to be. He wiped the mirror and leaned in close to make sure any remnants of makeup was cleared from his face. When he was satisfied, he stepped back and slipped into the silk pajamas that were waiting for him.
Hizashi grabbed his hairdryer and brush and went to sit on the bed. Making sure it was on the lowest setting, Hizashi set to drying his hair. He had barely gotten started when his phone rang. It was his business phone.
“I’m literally about to go to bed. What?” He picked up his phone and pressed accept. “Present Mic speaking. What’s up, yo?”
“Hi, Hizashi. I know it’s a bit late for a real business talk. However, there is a small surprise that we’re gonna introduce you to tomorrow. You’re getting a partner.”
Hizashi was silent for a moment. “I’m getting a partner?”
“Yes. I wanted to alert you as soon as possible. This plan just cemented during your show tonight. She wants to meet you tomorrow morning.”
“Hey, hey, Taiyo. Is she gonna be on my next tour or what?”
“About that. She’ll be joining in for your concert after this coming one.”
Mic stood up abruptly. “Taiyo! What do you mean-”
“Tomorrow, Hizashi.” His manager hung up.
Hizashi tossed his phone onto his bed with a little too much force and it bounced onto the floor. He could feel his eyebrows begin to twitch. He was a solo artist. Is a solo artist. And now, his manager was putting some girl with him. Hizashi briefly wondered how his fans would react but dismissed it. It wasn’t important at that moment. What was important was him drying his hair before bed. He hated having to deal with hair damage.
This new singer would be tomorrow’s problem.
Hizashi woke up to a knocking at his door. He groaned and checked the clock by his bed. “It’s only 7:30, assholes.” He threw the cover off his body and rolled out of bed. He slipped his favorite robe. It was leopard print, and Emi had gotten it for him ironically. He never bothered to get a different one.
“Mr. Tsubasa” Hizashi rolled his eyes. He didn’t love the fake name he registered in hotels, but it worked. To the common public, his name was Soratobu Tsubasa.
“I’m coming.” Hizashi opened the door and in front of him stood his manager, Taiyo, and several bodyguards that usually accompanied Present Mic around. “Am I late?”
“We’re meeting with your new partner in 45 minutes.”
“Why don’t you tell me these things, Taiyo?” Hizashi turned around and went to get dressed and fumbled for his disguise.
He grabbed his hat and a pair of black pilot shades. He pulled his hair into a ponytail and through the back of his baseball hat. His manager handed him his black mask to cover his jaw. “Thank you.”
“I don’t tell you because it only takes you forever to get ready before a show. Any other time, you barely take five minutes.” Hizashi grunted in response. He was still tired.
“Where are we meeting her?”
“We’re meeting her at All Mighty Industries.” Hizashi nodded as he was escorted downstairs to the limo. “She likes punctuality, even more, earliness. I want this partnership to go well. She would double your audience.”
“You mean she’d attract more men.” Taiyo nodded. “I guess I can’t reach a lot of guys. Some. Not all.” Hizashi grinned as he examined his nails. The red polish on his left hand was a little chipped, and on his right hand, painted black, an entire nail was bare. He tended to pick at them after shows. Last night was no different. He could feel his manager rolling his eyes at him.
"You're still a new idol, Hizashi. We don't want to expose your sexuality quite yet. It could still lose your "listeners" right now." Mic frowned and clicked his tongue. "Don't give me that. You know I support you."
"I know, I know. It's all business." Mic leaned against the window and watched the buildings pass. Taiyo seemed satisfied with his answer and went to making notes in the folder he always carried around.
When the entourage made it to All Mighty Industries, they filed out, Taiyo leading the line of bodyguards and Hizashi through the front entrance where Hizashi proceeded to peel the mask and baseball hat off. He made no move to remove his glasses.
Taiyo led them all down a hall where many conference rooms were, some full, some empty and dark. There was one where the CEO was meeting with a couple of kids. Must have been a field trip Hizashi decided.
Taiyo opened the door to a conference room which was currently empty and motioned for Hizashi to sit and the bodyguards dispersed except for one who sat to the left of Hizashi.
"I'm gonna go invite her to join us." Taiyo left. Hizashi leaned back in his chair and looked at his bodyguard.
"Hey, Doku. I'm still gonna be your favorite, right?" Doku's eyes widened and he sat up a bit straighter. "Ha! I'm just kidding. I know you love me." His bodyguard gave a sheepish smile before the door opened and Taiyo led a woman in through the doors.
"Hizashi, this is Kayama Nemuri, oth-"
"My stage name is Midnight! It's very nice to meet you!" She held her hand out to shake. Hizashi stood and shook her hand as they both sat back down. "I'm a big fan of yours, Present-"
"If we're gonna be working together, you can call me Hizashi." She smiled even wider. She seemed eager. "How long have you been in the industry, Nem?" The woman turned a light shade of pink at the nickname, but there was no hint of embarrassment from her.
"I've been singing for a long time, but I never made quite the breakthrough that you did. I've been performing since I graduated high school, 6 years ago." Hizashi nodded and pulled his hair over his shoulder to mess with a few strands.
"Five years is pretty good. It takes some people decades to catch a break."
"That's humble coming from you," Hizashi squinted at the teasing tone of voice she used. "You got big, what? 6 months after you graduated?"
"Yeah, I suppose so."
His manager cut in. "YouTube can be a great scouting tool sometimes." Hizashi gave a fake laugh and stuck his tongue out. "Although scouting from YouTube can be troublesome."
After the meeting with Nemuri concluded, she agreed to sign on as Hizashi's partner. Hizashi wasn’t exactly stoked, but he knew it would widen his fanbase as well as create “unique opportunities” as Taiyo liked to tell him. He knew it wasn’t Taiyo’s idea.
The concerts with her weren’t as terrible as Hizashi had thought they might be. In fact, she integrated smoothly into his normal routine even. Emi thought Nemuri was amazing and the two hit it off immediately. Hizashi often teased that he didn’t want to trade makeup artists because Emi fawned over Nem so often. He was only slightly serious about that one. He liked Emi as a makeup artist and as a friend. She was the only one who could do his makeup by herself. Otherwise, he had a swarm of people touching him all at once. Mic hated it. But, Emi always did his makeup in the end.
At the end of Hizashi’s tour, he was all too happy to go home and collapse on his own bed. He had ignored the mountain of mail at the front door as well as the growling in his stomach. He would have to order out for the night. He didn’t have anything at home to cook.
He fumbled for his phone and went to work searching for dinner that would be cheap and satisfying. It came as no surprise when he settled on the usual place and the usual meal. Shoyu Ramen it was.
Once he ordered it, he heaved himself off the bed and went to sort through the mountain of mail he had gotten. Most of it was bills, ads, or junk mail. But there was a piece that caught his eye. It was decked out in gold and blue. His high school colors. He popped the envelope open and grinned. He had been waiting for this. The 5-year reunion.
He skimmed through the letter looking for a date. It was in a month. An even bigger grin spread across his lips. He would be able to attend. He quickly filled out the reply form and stuffed it into the smaller envelope the first one had so nicely held. He would send it out first thing in the morning.
Some students would be graduating college by now and starting out in their field of work. He wondered how some of his friends had wound up. Hizashi was a little embarrassed to admit even to himself that he had done a poor job of keeping up with any of his classmates. He did still talk to one, Iida Tensei. He knew that Tensei went through the police academy and was working as a cop now. Other than that, he had no clue what anyone else was up to.
He didn't think about the fact that he knew what Tensei was doing now was only because he had gotten a speeding ticket a year ago, and the officer that had pulled him over was none other than Tensei.
The next day, Hizashi woke up around 12. It had been forever since he was able to sleep in. Now he had over a month to do so before his next tour. Of course, he still had to work on his next album while he was home. But, he no longer had to get up at 6:30 am due to the swaying of the tour bus making him sick. He no longer had to worry about falling over due to a pothole while he playing his guitar trying to muse over lyrics for his next song.
He hauled himself over the edge of the bed and groaned when his feet hit the floor. He had to go stock his fridge today. That meant a quick disguise and what usually felt like a mad frenzy to grab the food he needed and leave. He briefly considered using a service that brings you groceries, but he needed the socialization. Even if it was just saying hello to the cashier.
Hizashi may be a pop star, but the interactions he had on the tour were forced. Even during the meet and greets he held, he as always tired and pushing a smile to his lips. Watching the fans walk away smiling like they had just had the best day of their life definitely made it worth it.
Once he was inside the store he grabbed a basket and set on the fresh food area. He hadn't got to cook for himself in a while and he was planning the most extravagant three-course meal one person could have by themselves. Now if only he could find the radish he needed.
He scrolled through the list on his phone. "Okay, fresh food is done. Now for quick food." He grunted as he came into contact with another shoulder. He looked up. "Sorry, my bad." He received a low hum in response from a tangle of black hair. The other man had already turned the corner. Hizashi's lips twisted into a pout. The other man could have at least made an attempt to use words.
It seemed that the two men were working their way through the store at the same speed as one another, in the same direction. Hizashi couldn't help but notice the other man at every turn.
The other man, Hizashi settled on the nickname "Grouch," was about his height. He had long black hair that looked like it hadn't seen a brush in at least a week. He wore a black sweatshirt and baggy sweatpants that matched. He had a gray scarf folded neatly in his basket underneath his items. Grouch also looked like he hadn't shaved in a week, but he managed to make it look handsome almost. Underneath his right eye was a faded scar. Hizashi briefly wondered what would have caused such a nasty gouge. He didn't have time to look any longer because Grouch had turned the corner.
They met up again in the aisle where the rice was. Hizashi was already standing there about to crouch to look on the lowest shelf for his favorite brand of rice. He saw the other man approach slowly, looking directly at Hizashi. The blond looked to the ground and crouched, hoping the popping of his knees couldn't be heard. He reached for the lone bag in the back. It was larger than what he wanted but it would do. The boots of Grouch stopped right next to him. He stood up and smiled.
"Sorry, let me step out-"
"Was that the last bag?" Hizashi looked at the bag of rice in his hand and nodded.
"Sadly. I was hoping to find a smaller bag."
"They discontinued the smaller sizes last month." Hizashi frowned. He wouldn't be able to finish the larger bag of rice within the month he had before the tour. He hated wasting food.
"Oh, that's too bad." He held out the bag. "You take it. I won't be able to finish it all." Grouch looked at the bag and slowly took it.
"You look familiar. Do I know you?" Hizashi nearly froze. He hated hearing that in public.
"No, no, I guess I just have that face!" Hizashi moved to pull his mask further over his nose.
Grouch shook his head. "Yeah. I do. You're Yamada." Hizashi furrowed his brows. His real name wasn't known to the public, at least not unless there had been a leak of information. "Yamada… Hika… Hizashi."
"Where'd you hear that name?"
"We went to high school together. Same class." Hizashi bit his lip. How did he miss such a handsome guy in his own class? Unless this guy had a serious glow-up. "I got the letter for the reunion. I pulled out an old yearbook to remember everyone's name."
That made sense. Hizashi would probably end up doing the same so he didn't look like a fool. He only remembered Tensei and Kan. There was another kid that he needed to look up. He'd recognize him when he saw him in the photos he guessed. "Are you going?"
"I'm expected to. I work there now." Hizashi smiled.
"You teach? I wanted to teach when I was younger but I ended up-" He couldn't just tell this man what he was and what he did for a living. He obviously didn't recognize Present Mic and it was a nice change. "I ended up working in a cubicle."
"I'm sorry to ask, but I don't remember others well either. What's your name?"
Grouch let a small scoff escaped his lips and Hizashi furrowed his brows. "I thought you would've remembered Sho-chan. We didn't talk much, but you did give me a nickname."
Hizashi's eyes lit up. He remembered this guy now. He was the one he had found once in an alley during a thunderstorm, crouched over a soaking wet box that housed two kittens. He had helped him get them to the safety underneath the bus stop. Aizawa Shota. They were both first-years at the time
"Well, you look different," Hizashi offered. There was a pause. "Do you still have the cat?" Grou- Aizawa nodded. "That's great! Mine is still living with my mothers. She's old and deaf now. But still spoiled rotten."
All those years ago, Shota and he had agreed to each adopt one of those kittens and take care of them. Shota had taken the yellow tabby and named her Ame. Hizashi had taken the calico and named her Shine.
They did start talking to each other for a while but had a falling out over something Hizashi couldn't even remember seven years later.
"Aizawa, we should totally catch up over a cup of coffee." Aizawa shrugged. "Oh, come on. Please," the blond begged. Aizawa reluctantly agreed. "Fantastic! There's a cat cafe down-"
"I know the one. Meet me there tomorrow? At 10?" Hizashi nodded. He was excited to talk to Aizawa again.
That night, Hizashi called Emi and Nemuri on a group call.
"So, I met a guy." Hizashi was lying on his bed, over the covers, his phone on speaker beside him. "Well, re-met. He didn't recognize me as Present Mic either."
"Well, he must live under a rock!" Emi began laughing.
"Or maybe he has good taste in music," Nemuri offered.
"Nem, we sing together. We're a duo now," Hizashi laughed.
"I know what I said." Laughter came from both girls.
"But, no, I went to high school with him. We didn't stay friends past our first year, and I don't remember why."
"Could be the personality."
"Nemuri, that's mean!" Emi defended. Hizashi could tell she was laughing though.
"He's really pretty, guys. And he doesn't know I'm Present Mic. But the school reunion will ruin that. And I like that he knows me as just some kid from highschool. If he doesn't know who's topping the charts, he must not like that kind of scene." Hizashi bit his lip.
"How pretty is he, Zashi," Nemuri asked. "What was the first thought you had when you saw his face?"
"Well, if I'm being honest, at first glance, he looked kind of homeless. But then you get a closer look, and you can tell he does shave occasionally. He has brushed his hair before. Maybe not that day, but he has. And his jawline! It could cut a bitch." Nemuri laughed.
"Mhm. Sounds like a rough kind of guy."
"If you're talking in the context I think you are, I hope so." The trio laughed together. "In all seriousness, I kind of want it to go well. From what I remember, younger me might have had a crush on younger him. And I have a month to get him to like me for who I am. For Hizashi."
"We want in," the girls said in unison.
"Emi, you know where he lives, right? Pick me up tomorrow and we can go over. We can oversee the date!"
"Guys, that's not necessary," Hizashi complained. "I'm 22 years old. I know how to handle a coffee date."
"Does he know it's a date," Nemuri wondered. Hizashi's mouth fell open. From it, came silence. "You didn't drop the D word did you?" More silence from Hizashi who was suddenly interested in his hair. "Just pay for both of you before he gets a chance. Hint that it's a date."
"Right." Hizashi sat up. "Thanks, guys. I got to go though."
"Get plenty of beauty rest before your date! And good luck tomorrow!"
Hizashi woke up. Correction. He woke up late. It was 9:32 when he woke up. He practically threw himself from the bed to his bathroom.
He couldn't remember a time he had taken a faster shower. He also couldn't remember the last time he towel-dried his hair the way he did as he simultaneously brushed his teeth. He tripped to his closet in search of something decent to wear. It couldn't be too formal, but he didn't want it to be too casual either.
Truth be told, Hizashi had no fashion sense. His wardrobe had put together his stage outfit. And he worked closely enough with fashion companies that wanted him to model and rep their clothes that Hizashi didn't need style.
In the end, he threw on a pair of black skinny jeans and a white shoulder-length tank top. He pulled his hair up and sighed. He hoped he wouldn't get recognized despite the lack of disguise. He made a quick call.
"Doku. Thank goodness you answered. How close are you right now?"
"I live three doors down from you, Hizashi. I am maybe 100 yards or more from you."
"Can you meet me outside in ten minutes. Or less. Preferably less."
"I can meet you in five."
"You're the best. I'll explain on the way." Hizashi hung up and admired his reflection for a moment.
The jeans fit well enough and made his legs look great. The tank top allowed the tattoos on his left arm to be on full display. It was originally just a bunch of sunflowers, but he had recently gotten a music staff to wrap around his bicep like a cuff put on top of it. Not a cover-up. More of an accent. The only thing on the staff was a whole rest. He smiled. He pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and checked the time.
"Shit, I'm gonna be so late!" He ran out the door, quickly pulling Doku who was waiting along. Luckily he didn't live far from the cat cafe.
"What's going on, Hizashi?"
"Long story short, there's a guy I want to be real with, but we're gonna be in public and if anything goes down, I would feel safer if you were around." Doku nodded as they came to a slow walk before they could turn the corner.
"Makes sense. Do you want me to come in after you do and sit down?" Hizashi nodded. "Okay. I'll wait here for a couple of minutes." Hizashi steeled himself and let out the breath he had been holding.
He turned the corner, thumbs hooked into his pockets. He regretted not spending a little more time to dry his hair, he could feel the back of his shirt dampen where his hair lay. He walked into the cafe. He could already see where Aizawa was sitting. Of course, he was already here. It was 10:10. He slid into the seat across from him.
"Sorry, I'm late." Shota shrugged.
"I don't mind. I had company." He motioned to the cat that had apparently made itself comfortable in Aizawa's lap. Hizashi cooed.
"That's so cute. They're just loving you." Aizawa nodded. Hizashi heard the bell of the cafe ring and hoped it was Doku finding himself a seat. He made a note to get his bodyguard something special. The guy didn't get along with cats often.
"I already ordered us drinks. I got you something sweet. I hope it's okay?"
Hizashi nodded. He did prefer sweet things but his go-to coffee was just a mocha. If he was feeling extra he may even splurge on the whipped cream. He chuckled to himself. Aizawa raised a brow.
It wasn't long before a waitress brought them their coffee. She furrowed her eyes at the blond who turned slightly away. Hizashi feared he had made a mistake coming here. But she didn't say anything but to enjoy the coffee.
Hizashi was pleased that although it wasn't a mocha, the drink Aizawa got him wasn't too sweet.
"So, how have you been? Overall," Hizashi asked after he took a sip of his drink.
"Tired usually." Hizashi chuckled as Aizawa continued. "But, yeah. I just got my teaching degree last year, and I managed to get a job at our old high school."
Hizashi nodded and scratched at the ears of a sphinx cat that had settled on one of his legs. "I haven't been doing much I guess."
"Do you still write those songs?" Hizashi nearly choked.
"Uh, yeah. Occasionally, I do. They're not great though, so it doesn't matter." Aizawa furrowed his brows but shrugged. "How do like teaching?"
"It's fine. The students are difficult. My superior says it's because I'm new."
"Nah, it's probably just that it's a bunch of kids." Hizashi smiled as Russian Blue slunk up to Aizawa and pressed his head against his arm. Aizawa smiled softly. Hizashi almost couldn't tell that he had. "I don't know how, but you're a cat magnet." Aizawa currently had one cat in his lap, one laying beside him, another behind him in a cubby behind his head, and the Blue that had just arrived was settling on the free side of him.
"Perhaps." He looked at the hairless cat cuddled up to Hizashi. "That one likes you." Hizashi looked at his lap and smiled.
"She's cute. Most people don't like sphinx cats, but I adore them. They're just as good as a fur baby." Aizawa nodded. "I've been wanting to get a pet, but I'm away a lot. Hence the reason Shine lives with my mothers."
"Didn't you say you worked a desk job?"
Hizashi took a sip of his drink to give him time to think. "Mmm, I go on a lot of business trips. I'm a representative. I go close deals for partnerships." Aizawa squinted at him. Hizashi laughed nervously. "I work with… clientele...at All Mighty Industries."
"So you still work with the music industry?"
The blond tapped the sides of his cup. "It's not just a music industry per se. They also take on models, sometimes actors. And they're not afraid to partner with smaller businesses in hopes of expanding." Hizashi honestly didn't know much outside of music at his label, but he knew they worked outside of music as well.
"Sounds like an interesting job."
Soon enough, the two finished their coffee. Aizawa worked on shooing the cats away from him so he could get up. He gave them each scratches between the ears. The sphinx had left Hizashi's lap shortly before in search of food.
When the pair walked by Hizashi's bodyguard, Hizashi held three fingers up behind his back. "Give me three minutes."
They stopped outside the cafe. "It was nice catching up, Aizawa."
"You know, we haven't talked in years, but I think I still prefer hearing my given name over my family name." Hizashi grinned with maybe a little too much teeth.
"Why did we stop talking, Shota?"
Shota's lips twisted into a grimace. "You don't remember?" Hizashi looked down and shook his head. "You… you outed me to my family, Hizashi. I don't think you meant to. But you never apologized for it."
"No, it's my fault we stopped talking. My parents didn't react when you were around. And they didn't have a negative reaction overall. But when I was 15, it was the last thing I wanted, my parents knowing I'm gay."
"Hey." Shota looked at him. "I really did enjoy catching up with you. Would you want to do it again?"
"Sure." Shota pulled out his phone and handed it to Hizashi who punched his number in and returned it. "Are you going to the station?" Hizashi shook his head.
"I actually live a couple of blocks down."
"I can walk you then." Hizashi laughed nervously.
"You don't have to."
"Don't be ridiculous. If it's only a couple blocks, the station is right there. It's logical." Hizashi bit his lip but nodded. Shota took the first step. Doku was getting out of his seat to follow the two at a distance.
They had barely turned the block when Shota leaned a bit closer to Hizashi and lowered his voice. "Do you know the guy that was in the cafe?" Hizashi shrugged. "I think he might be following us?"
Hizashi laughed. "Are you sure? Maybe he just lives in this direction too." Shota frowned.
"He came in just after you did, and he left just after we did. And now he's walking maybe 15 yards behind us. And that's not suspicious?"
"It'll be fine. I have you with me, you can protect me from the big bad man." Shota huffed and they stopped outside Hizashi's apartment building.
"Here?" Hizashi nodded and pulled out his key card to get in the building. "Well, later, I guess."
"Hey. Quick question." Hizashi tapped his nails against the card. "Was this… a date to you?" He could feel his cheeks heat up.
"It could be." Hizashi grinned. "Date is good?"
"Date is good." Hizashi looked up at his apartment building. He had to go get work done, but he didn't want to leave the stoop.
Shota looked at his phone. "I'm gonna be late." Hizashi tilted his head. "There's a school trip this afternoon. I'm a chaperone. I got to go. I'll text you though." Hizashi smiled as Shota pocketed his phone and walked towards the station. He slipped inside the building with a grin.
He waited for Doku to slip inside as well before they walked up to their apartments. "Did it go well?"
"I mean, other than the fact he thought you were a stalker briefly, it went fantastic!" Doku nodded. "Thank you for coming with me. I'll make sure Taiyo knows."
"Well, it's what I live three doors down for." Hiazashi laughed. "Bye, Hizashi. Give me a call if you need anything." Doku unlocked his door and went inside.
Hizashi skipped down the hallway to his door and went inside. He immediately called the girls. He was both surprised and unsurprised when he heard Emi's ringtone come from inside the apartment. He was surprised to hear it coming from his guest bedroom. He knocked on the door.
"Just a second!" That was Nemuri's voice. He heard shuffling.
"You guys were here for how long and the first thing you do is have sex?"
"We actually had breakfast first," Emi defended.
"Did you eat my food?" Hizashi grumbled as he went to the kitchen.
Nemuri was the first to join in the kitchen. "Actually we ate out." She snickered.
"Mmm, sounds good," Hizashi replied sarcastically. Emi joined them looking as if nothing had happened. "I didn't think you guys would actually come over. Let alone fuck in my guest room.”
Nemuri hummed and moved to sit on the counter next to the blond. “So. Zashi? How did your date go?”
Hizashi grinned as he pulled leftovers from his fridge. “It went really well. I mean, I was almost late because I woke up late. Then I got anxious because I wasn’t going to be in disguise, so I called Doku to accompany me from afar. Shota thought he was a stalker.”
“Ooh, Shota? First name basis again already?” Hizashi shrugged.
“Also, he told me the reason we stopped talking seven years ago.” Nemuri nodded, urging Hizashi to share. “I apparently outed him to his family,” the blond said quietly. “I didn’t apologize back then, and Shota was upset, understandably. His family didn’t react badly from what he said, but it was-”
“Principle,” Emi supplied. Hizashi nodded. “Well, if he was willing to forgive you and talk to you now, then he must be interested.”
“Or maybe he thinks Hizashi is pretty and is willing to put it all behind him. Or in him.” Hizashi stuck his tongue out at her.
Suddenly, Hizashi’s phone began to ring. Hizashi locked eyes with Nemuri and they both lunged for it. Nemuri got there first and answered. Emi only stood back and laughed. “Hello! This is Kayama Nemuri speaking on behalf of Yamada Hizashi! How can I help you?”
“Nem! Give me my phone back.”
“Oh, yes. He is very happy about your date. When he came home, he just couldn’t keep his hands off of his-”
“Nem!” Hizashi leaped at her to grab his phone back. “Shota, please don’t listen to her!”
“So your next date, is tomorrow night good? How about a home-cooked meal, made by Hizashi himself. I don’t know if you know, but he could be a culinary master!” Hizashi pouted as Nemuri ran into the guest bedroom and locked the door. “Oh, yeah, he makes fantastic Okonomiyaki! The absolute best!”
“I knew you ate my leftovers!” Nemuri laughed.
“Yes, he will be available tomorrow night at seven. He will text you his address.” Hizashi heard silence and then the unlocking of the door. Nemuri stepped out calmly. “Tomorrow night, here, at 7 pm.” Hizashi sighed and took his phone from his stage partner.
“Thanks, I guess.” Hizashi opened up messages and texted Shota his address. “I have to put away all my CDs though. And you two are gonna help me.”
“You got us in trouble, Nemuri,” Emi whined and leaned against Nemuri.
“Also, when did you two get together?” Hizashi turned away to start collecting his CD’s and putting them in a stack to move.
“In your guest bedroom.” Nemuri moved to another shelf of CDs.
“Don’t worry about that one. That’s not pop. That’s American country.” He looked over his shoulder to see Nemuri making a face. “It’s good, Nemuri. Your opinions won’t change the fact that I have four Blake Shelton CD’s and five Keith Urban and the entirety of the Johnny Cash collection.”
“Excessive, but okay.” She moved to a different shelf. That one did have pop music so Hizashi left her to sort through it. “What does Shota think you do if you don’t tell him you’re a pop star.”
“Well, I may have said that I’m a representative for All Mighty Industries.” Nemuri put a hand on her hip as Hizashi picked up the stack of six CDs that he had found. These were the signed versions he kept for himself. Maybe it was narcissistic but it was fine. “So, he knows I still work with music.”
The rest of the night consisted of the trio putting the CDs away in the guest bedroom. Hizashi refused to go in until the other two stripped the bed and put it in the wash. Emi was red-faced when that discussion came up and Nemuri was grinning proudly.
Hizashi was genuinely happy for the pair and supported them fully. He was excited that they had finally gotten together. He just wished it wasn’t in his guest bedroom. He told the pair as such. He’d keep their secret as long as he could about their relationship seeing as how relationships between company members were discouraged. He could at least promise them that.
The next day the trio spent the morning and midday cleaning up the apartment. Hizashi asked Nemuri to help out since she had chosen to make the date at Hizashi’s apartment. When 5 pm rolled around, the blond ushered the two ladies out. He definitely did not want them around. Nemuri wanted to stay and be the waiter but Hizashi refused to let them bombard the date. They moved over to Doku’s apartment for the night.
Hizashi groaned looking at the array of ingredients. He set to work. He couldn’t believe Nemuri had convinced Shota to come to his home for their second date. Hizashi’s phone rang. It was his business phone.
He groaned and picked up. “Yo, yo, it’s Present Mic speaking! What can I do for you?”
“Hey, it’s Taiyo, Hizashi.”
“What’s up?” Hizashi set to cutting the cabbage up for the Okonomiyaki.
“When’s the soonest you can come in to record the single we were talking about? Apparently, the renovations to the recording studios are gonna be earlier than we thought.”
Hizashi hissed and set down his knife. “I actually haven’t finished it. It should be done soon. When are the renovations going down now?”
“They’re starting in two weeks time.”
“Fuck. Um, I can come in about a week. I’ll have it done. Have you talked to Nem about it?” Hizashi continued cooking.
“I have. She said she would be ready when you were to record hers and she can join your recording simply. Thank you. I’m sorry it’s so short notice. We just got the update today.”
“No, no, you’re okay. I understand. Thank you for telling me.” The line was silent for a moment. “Oh, and think I want to try and give Doku a bonus. He helped me out the other day and might be helping me out in the future. Like, outside of hours.”
“Yeah, I’ll look into that. Goodnight, Hizashi.”
“Goodnight, Taiyo.” Hizashi hung up the phone and went through the calendar and marked the date. He’d have to start tonight, but he had his date tonight.
Before Hizashi knew it, it was seven pm and he was throwing the batter into the pan for dinner. There was a knock on the door at 7:02. He nearly dropped the spatula and went to open the door, throwing the apron he was wearing over a chair. “Coming.”
He checked himself out in the mirror in his entryway and sighed. He wasn’t too dressed up, but it was a home dinner date. He should be comfortable. So he had a pair of joggers on and a tight yellow shirt. He fixed a stray hair and opened the door.
Shota looked good tonight. He was wearing all black sweats, but they fit pretty well. Hizashi grinned and let him inside. “Thank you.” Shota slipped his shoes off and put on the guest slippers Hizashi had put out.
“Of course. The dish is on now. I should go check it.” Shota nodded and Hizashi went back to the kitchen. He flipped the pancake and smiled when it was perfect. “You can make yourself at home if you’d like. Or join me in here. Either or.” Hizashi chuckled nervously.
“I’ll join you in the kitchen.” Hizashi glanced over his shoulder, noticing the small bouquet of flowers he held. Hizashi grinned. He was holding mini sunflowers.
“Don’t tell me those are for me?”
“Okay, they’re not.” Hizashi laughed and went to grab a vase. “I guessed… since your tattoo, you know?” Hizashi nodded as he filled the vase with water and set it on the counter. Then, he shuffled to take the pancake out of the pan and put it on a serving plate. “You actually made Okonomiyaki?”
Hizashi laughed. “I didn’t know what else to make. Nem mentioned it, so I figured why not? I made some the other night, and Nem ate it yesterday, so she obviously thought it was good.”
“Is she your roommate?” Shota used the scissors Hizashi handed him to cut the stems and placed them in the water.
“No, just a partner of mine at work. She’s friendly so we started talking outside of work. We spend… a lot of time together,” he laughed. Shota nodded. “Sorry that she answered yesterday. She got there before I did and locked herself in the guest bedroom.”
Shota nodded as Hizashi held out the serving plate with the Okonomiyaki and held a side dish of kimchi that Nemuri and Emi had made earlier in the day.
“Do you wanna eat here? Or do you want to watch a movie while we eat?”
“I had an American movie picked out, but I have some classic Studio Ghibli as well.” Shota perked up at Studio Ghibli. Hizashi gestured them into the living room and set the plates on the coffee table. “Totoro? It’s my favorite.”
“Mine too,” Shota mentioned. Hizashi grinned and pulled the DVD case out and put it on. He moved over to his couch and settled down next to Shota. But not too close, of course.
Hizashi gave Shota his plate and kimchi and took his own in his lap. They ate in silence while the movie played. When they had finished their food, Hizashi put the dishes in the sink and moved back to the couch. Shota was closer to the middle than he remembered. He smiled and sat down.
“It was good.” Hizashi looked at him. “Dinner. Kayama was right. It’s pretty good.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it.” Shota nodded and leaned back into the couch.
“I get tired after I eat a good meal,” Shota mentioned. Hizashi laughed.
“Well, at least I know how to gauge how good it was." Shota scoffed.
"I should get going before I fall asleep. I'm a heavy sleeper and hard to wake up." Hizashi frowned a little.
"You don't have to." It slipped out before he could stop it. He smiled sheepishly. "I mean, I don't mind if you fall asleep." Shota looked at him skeptically.
"Are you sure? I don't know if I snore or not." Hizashi laughed.
"I'm sure. Tomorrow isn't a school day, so even if you leave late tonight or early in the morning, it's not like you'll miss much, right?" Shota nodded and shuffled further back into the couch.
It was about ten minutes later that Hizashi felt a weight on his shoulder. He turned his head to see Shota had indeed fallen sound asleep. He grinned and maneuvered into a position where they both would be comfortable without his arm falling asleep.
It wasn't long after that that the credits were rolling. Hizashi turned the screen off and didn't go to move or wake Shota. Instead, he leaned his head against the couch and let the sound of Shota's even breaths lull him to sleep.
When Hizashi woke up, it was to Shota trying to get up without waking the other. He looked at the time on his phone. It was only 9 PM. They still had time before Shota was staying over too late for a second date.
"Where are you going?" Hizashi mumbled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He moved his legs so Shota could stand.
"Bathroom. I'll be back." The blond nodded and stretched. That was the best nap he had had in a while despite it only being roughly 30 minutes. He got up and flipped the lights on.
He looked at his guitar and sighed. He needed to work on that song. He honestly had barely started on it, only getting the melody of it. No lyrics had come to him that he liked yet. He grabbed it and sat back down to tune it before picking up the guitar clamp and setting to work.
Shots knew he still made music a little, so there should be no issue in playing while he was here, right? He hummed along to the place where the chorus would be.
Shota was back on the couch by now, watching Hizashi play. He didn't say anything, but Hizashi could barely recognize a look of amusement on the others face. Hizashi grinned and started playing a different song. Not one of his own, but one he knew. He began to sing to Shota. A serenade if you will.
"I heard this old story before
With the people keeping calling for the metaphors
But, don't leave much up to the imagination
So I want to give this imagery back"
Shota sank back into the couch, his eyes were lidded, half asleep, but he kept his eyes on Hizashi.
"But I know it ain't just so easy like that
So, I turn the page and read the story again and again and again
Sure seems the same with a different name
We're breaking and rebuilding, and we're growing always guessin'"
Shota's eyes were closed now, but he wasn't asleep. Just listening. Hizashi smiled and let the guitar fade out. The song wasn't over, but he wanted to move back to the couch himself and sit with Shota.
"I'm listening," Shota tried to say. Hizashi laughed and moved to sit beside Shota again.
"No, no, it's fine. I need to write something down anyway." Hizashi was confident Shota wasn't paying attention when he pulled a notebook from the drawer on his coffee table where he kept his lyrics. He scribbled in something and set it back in the drawer with the pen beside it.
"What was that?" Shota was looking at him now.
"It's nothing. Just song lyrics."
"You work at a music industry, why not submit a song. You have a good voice." Hizashi couldn't help but laugh.
"You think so?" A nod. "Mm, I'll think about it." He looked at Shota. "Hey, you said your class had a field trip yesterday? Where to?"
"It was just to the strip mall. I don't know how I got roped into it really, but I did. The students are going through exams and some of the board members thought it would be a stress reliever. Doesn't make sense to me. They can just go on their own time. It's not logical for the school to use transportation and teachers' time for a small trip." Hizashi nodded as he watched Shota talk.
"What made you want to teach?"
Shota narrowed his eyes. "Is this 20 questions?" Hizashi snickered. "I decided I would teach during my second year. I noticed some of our classmates were falling behind. They didn't learn the same way as everyone else. The system is geared towards a certain type of person, and I… wanted to give others a chance, I guess."
"That's very heroic of you." Shota rolled his eyes.
"Why did you become a representative?"
"Oh, well. I, uh, couldn't get into the music industry as an entertainer, but I've always been pretty good with people, so I figured I could still work with what I loved if I represented clientele."
"What kind of people do you represent?"
Hizashi had to think about that one. He had not thought far into this ruse at all, hoping Shota wouldn't ask too many questions. He was saved by his business phone going off. He jumped up to grab it from where he had placed it in the kitchen. Luckily, it was just a text. It was Doku.
'You can have them back. I want to go to bed. They're loud.'
Another one popped up.
'They're scaring Lady, my snake. Please tell me your date is almost over?'
Hizashi sent a reply asking for five minutes and went back to the living room. "Hey. Sorry, business phone. Nemuri and her girlfriend are staying with me briefly and they're bugging one of my clients who so graciously took them in for the duration of this date."
Shota sighed but stood up. Hizashi bit his lip. "It's okay. Thank you again for dinner." He nodded and walked with Shota to the door.
"Thank you for the flowers." Shota nodded and stood there for a moment before walking out the door. "I'll text you?"
Shots waved his hand, signaling yes and kept walking. Hizashi watched him leave before going down to Doku's apartment and retrieving the two girls.
"Zashi!" Nem jumped to cling to him when the door opened. Doku was sitting on the floor which had quite a few beer bottles. "How did your date go?"
Hizashi pried her off. "Did you drink Doku out of house and home? Jesus, I'll pay you back, man. I'm sorry they're such a handful."
Doku let out a sigh. "They're fine. Lady is just getting anxious. I can't feed her with people over and it's getting close to dinner time." Hizashi nodded. "Emi's passed out on the couch now. I can carry her-"
"No, please. You do a lot for me. And I have a feeling a lot more this month. I'll get her. Nemuri can kind of walk." Hizashi slipped into the apartment and moved to where Emi was fast asleep. He could see the ball python in her cage, coiled up. He smiled.
"She's shed her skin since the last time you saw her."
"The wife taking good care of her?" Doku nodded. "How'd she feel about these two numbnuts?"
"Well, she drank with them. So, she's in our room, fast asleep too."
Hizashi slipped his arms under Emi. Luckily, she was pretty light and easily carried. "Thank you again. I talked to Taiyo about a big bonus for this mess."
"That's what I'm here for. Big bonuses." The two laughed as Hizashi walked out of the apartment, baiting Nemuri behind him. She shut the door and skipped down the hall to Hizashi's apartment.
"How was your date," she slurred again as they walked in. "7 to 9:30. Plenty of time to-"
"We fell asleep on the couch, Nem. Nothing else. Can you open the guest bedroom door? I don't want Emi sleeping on the couch." Nemuri did as she was asked, a pout glued to her lips. Hizashi laid Emi down. "You should sleep too. I'll get you a glass of water."
"I don't get hangovers!" Nemuri called.
"Then, I'm gonna drink it with an aspirin," he mumbled.