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Blue On Blue

Chapter 1: What Do I Do?

Rating PG

Soundtrack: Eotteokhajyo (What Do I Do?) by Ji Sun

Birthdays were serious business at the Saotome Agency. The young energy of the brand new idol band – and their composer – reverberated down the hallways and made even the stodgiest old employee more conducive to celebration. The entire year had been spent celebrating birthday after birthday – there were ten people under 20 this year alone – and today they had reached a very special one.

Before this day, the agency had celebrated a whopping eight of those young birthdays, not counting those over 20. Now it was September 15. The day had become an official holiday. All work ceased for the day, which was celebrated with enough cake to choke the sweetest sweet tooth, contraband drinks and more gifts than Haruka had seen in her life.

Haruka knew how her birthday was supposed to have started. A breakfast in bed, served on beautiful plates and with enough sweets to give her instant cavities. That had been the plan, made with whispers under several starlit skies. She expected to be awakened to the scent of freshly made sweet-cakes, warm, earthy tea and smiling violet-blue eyes.

Haruka had expected her eighteenth birthday to be the most exciting birthday ever. Now, as the sun peeked through the sheer curtains of her bedroom window and ran its warm, soft fingers over her brow, reminders came slowly creeping over her skin, causing her to shiver and wish for nothing more than to pull the covers over her head.

It was supposed to have been a wonderful day, a day filled with laughter, joy, and excitement. Now she wished that it could get shoved under the sofas in the practice rooms like all of the stray pencils, guitar picks and saxophone reeds that the cleaner would invariably find.

It was a futile wish, but she clutched it to her chest like a precious thing nonetheless.

Today was the sixth time in as many days that Haruka woke with tears drying on her cheeks. She allowed herself a rare curse as she touched the stiff and scratchy evidence on her face. She yawned, stretched and reluctantly rolled out of her bed, wishing she could just roll over on the floor and stay sleeping until noon. It was a close thing, but she knew if she didn't move soon, one of the boys (probably Syo-chan, but more likely Ittoki-kun) would knock down the door to drag her to her other birthday breakfast. An early morning kidnapping was not on the top of her list of things to do, so she stood up and hurried into her shower to splash some cold water on herself. The least she could do for her friends was at least to appear to be excited about her special day.

Showered, powdered and dressed in a sober, deep blue skirt and white top, she cracked open her door and peeked down the hall. The coast was clear.

Or so she thought. One, two, three steps down the hallway, and she could feel the breeze of Syo's arrival behind her. He threw and arm around her shoulders and stopped his forward movement, jerking the both of them to a complete stop.

"Happy Birthday, Nanami!" he called into her ear, his blue eyes twinkling.

Haru found that she was able to laugh and give him a genuine smile. It was hard to stay sad when Syo looked at her that way. She shook her head, allowing him to steer her down the hall toward the practice room where, naturally, the birthday extravaganza was laid out.

As usual the room was spacious and peacefully lit, illuminated only the morning sunshine pouring through the ten floor-to-ceiling windows. Her eyes danced around the room, acknowledging the six other young men scattered around the space; lounging on couches, sitting in window seats, waiting to shower her with gifts.

Distractedly caressing the keys of the grand piano in the only shadowy corner in the room.

She found it surprisingly easy not to pause, not to gasp in a painful breath, not to take a moment to consider that. Acknowledging what she saw, she moved on, allowing Syo to steer her to one of the low tables near the center of the room.

With couches on either side, the table was laden with a beautiful breakfast feast. Not the one she expected, it was mouth-watering anyway. A bowl of delicately carved fruits, a plate of warm and steaming honey rolls, carafes of coffee and juice, and a centerpiece of sticky sweet pastries, well-known to be her favorite. Her stomach growled appreciatively and she threw a guilty look at the boys seated around the table.

Ren chuckled and scooted over, patting the empty space beside him. "Apparently, your stomach has spoken for you, Lady," he drawled, giving her his trademark warm smirk. His sleepy eyes took her in from her head to her toes, as he always did, and – as always – Haruka couldn't help but blush under his regard. To cover the pink in her cheeks and the fluttering in her middle, she looked around at the others, giving each one a small smile. At her arrival, the ones scattered throughout the room moved toward the couches and made themselves as comfortable as they could.

And here was where the day would be different from the last birthday she'd celebrate; no matter how much she tried to ignore it.

As her gaze slid over them all, and as each one gave her their warmest salutations, she tried not to let her gaze pause too long on any of them. That way she wouldn't be conspicuous when she purposefully allowed her gaze to light on one of them for the time it took her to blink an eye. How dare he look so rested when she was lucky to have gotten two hours of sleep for the past six nights! She should have been the one to sleep peacefully, conscience clear. She resolutely ignored that fact that he stopped her heart in her chest like he always did. She disregarded the fact that it was a moment before she could breath again. She discounted the memories that murmured under the surface of her skin, of that day six days ago, when things became… different.

Under other circumstances, her gaze would have lingered, and she would have cherished the warmth of his greeting, the fleeting thrill of a clandestine morning kiss. Just imagining his soft lips moving over hers was like a symphony in its own right, inspiring her and filling her mind with more lyrics than she could scribble down in one day. Or, at least, they used to encourage her. Now, her skin felt a chill from the lack of his touch, and the fine hairs on her arm raised from her lingering guilt.

Blinking fast (because she swore she would not shed one tear on her birthday of all days), she let her glance dance around the periphery of his face. Her gaze settled on the empty spot next to Natsuki, which was quickly filled with Syo's bouncing body. She resolutely ignored the fact that he had quickly retreated, and moved to stand behind the couch upon which she was seated.

For those who were her friends, she would not let the day be ruined by her sadness, nor would she let him know how much his presence affected her. Besides, she wasn't even sure he even gave a damn about her feelings at this point and did not want to give him the satisfaction of watching her suffer the consequences of her actions.

"Tch."

She heard the small sound and looked over at Tokiya, whose mouth was pressed in a thin line, and his expression filled with thunderclouds. Of course, he knew. Ren probably knew as well. She gave the lanky, strawberry-blond another look and noticed him directing his coldest stare toward something over her right shoulder. She wanted to tell them to stop, to leave it alone, but speaking of it would lay the completely painful mess on the table and ruin her party before it even began.

"I see someone remembered my favorite," she said instead, reaching for the plate of strawberry pastries placed in the position of honor in the middle of the table. She grabbed the top one and took a healthy bite, allowing herself to moan with unbridled delight as the warmth and sweetness taking over her whole mouth.

"Of course we remembered, Haru-chan," Natsuki told her. "It was hard to keep Syo-chan away from them, but after Ren had threatened to bite his fingers off, he left them alone."

Haruka laughed and gave Ren a scandalized look. "How could you, Jinguji-san?"

"I had to protect such masterpieces from being ruined before you could enjoy them."

"But then we'd have to call the group TARISH, ne?" She popped the last bite of the pastry in her mouth and licked the excess crumbs from her thumb. "I can see your fans loving that."

"Actually, it'll be more like STAR…" Natsuki thought about how to pronounce the last part of the name without the S that stood for Syo. "…eh? Or ee. Or-,"

"Really, Shinoymia-san, can we get on with things so Haru-chan can get to her presents?" Tokiya said, stopping Natsuki before he could get on a roll.

"Oh, I can wait until you've finished," Haru offered, snagging another pastry from the plate. Tomo-chan would have called her out for stuffing her face so early in the morning, but it was her birthday, she was eighteen years old, these pastries were utterly delicious and she could do whatever she wanted.

Well, most of what she wanted. What she really wanted to do for her birthday was lost to her and that stung her deeply again. Especially with the feeling of him standing right behind her, his hand on the back of the couch, the smell of his light cologne permeating all of her senses.

He baked these, she suddenly thought.

"Oh, he can shut up," Ittoki-kun said, just as Syo was cramming a pastry in his mouth, trying to swallow the thing in one bite. It was the first time he'd spoken that morning, and she knew it was no coincidence that he chose that moment to remind her of his sunshine presence. "Come on, now, Haru-chan, hurry up, we want to see you open your presents already!"

She gave him her brightest smile. Otoya had always been her anchor, the one who always kept her from losing herself during stressful moments. He'd been there for her from her first day at Saotome Academy, had supported her throughout every trial she'd suffered there. He became the only one she told all of her secrets to and the only one she could trust to keep her emotions on an even keel. He was the one she'd run to on that ugly night when all she wanted to do was scream and scratch and fight for what was hers. She glanced at him in mute thanks and moved toward the chair beside the gift table.

Despite the fact that each box on the gift table was relatively small and elegantly wrapped, she knew the extravagance of each one was only topped by the next. The giver was identified by the color of satin ribbon that wrapped each one. With that in mind, she reached over one placed directly in front of her and picked up the rectangular box covered in red and tied with a purple satin ribbon behind it.

It was from Tokyia. He gave her a beautiful jewelry box, the dark, polished wood embellished with tiny, bright crystals, and lined with rich, red velvet. She thanked him with a quizzical look because he had to know she had very little jewelry to put inside of the thing. He held a smile with his teeth and nodded toward her.

Syo, who, of course, couldn't wait, handed her a slim, black box, tied with a pale pink ribbon and the competition to astound Haruka began in earnest.

When she opened the box, she caught her breath at the beautiful bracelet lying on the white satin. It was silver and set with seven fat, gorgeous, sparkling aquamarines, the same color as Syo's twinkling gaze. "Because nothing else goes perfectly with your eyes," he told her earnestly, and the first of many blushes crossed her cheeks.

After that, she accepted the set of pair of tiny stylish earrings, dripping with exotic malachite and precious gold. That had come from Cecil, who just gave her a smile and a little bow. Next was the bracelet that was the fraternal twin to Syo's, from Natsuki, in silver and bright emeralds. Haruka felt her eyes growing moist as she took in the beautiful sparkle in the dark green that was only matched by the unbelievable smile in Natsuki's eyes. Then she laughed, because beneath the bracelet was a tiny little charm, meant to go into her phone's earplug, of lovely green crystals and a small little Piyo-chan spinning on its end.

"I told you she'd love Piyo-chan!" Natsuki exclaimed, clapping his hands and giving Syo an 'I-told-you-so' look. "She knows how much happiness Piyo-chan can bring!"

"She knows you're crazy, that's what she knows," Syo muttered, even as he gave his bandmate and roommate a twisted smile.

A ring was Otoya's gift to her. A simple silver band etched in delicate filigree, just big enough for her pinky finger. A real ring of friendship from a true friend. She blinked furiously and reached out to give him a hug.

As he pulled her close, he whispered in her ear, "It's almost over. You've got this, sweetheart," before breaking the embrace.

There were two boxes left on the table. One was a cube about the size of a salad plate, and the other a flat, rectangle box that fit in the palm of her hand. She hovered over the two boxes, wondering which one she should take first. As her fingers skated over the blue satin ribbon on the cube – she knew, she just knew – so she moved past it and took the flat rectangle with the orange ribbon.

All she could do when she opened the box was gape in unabashed amazement. A beautiful citrine, the size of her eye, hung suspended from delicate silver braid embellished with tiny diamonds clusters placed about every other inch of the chain. It, by far, had to be the most unbelievable thing she'd seen.

Ren moved to take the box from her and unhook the clasp. "The citrine matches the sparkle in your eyes when you are inspired, and I couldn't find anything else that would compare to the beauty of your soul other than diamonds," he murmured. As he spoke, he moved behind her and draped the chain around her neck and fastened it with gentle fingers. When he was done, he laid his warm hands on her shoulders. Haruka felt the soothing energy moving through his fingers into her as she considered the last gift on the table.

Haruka almost lost it then, but a great deal of blinking and smiling held her just on the edge of blubbering like a fool. She placed her hand over one of Ren's before he withdrew and thanked him softly.

Then there was only one gift left. Still pleasantly stunned by the dazzling array of precious stones she was been given (which made Tokiya's gift logical); she managed to pick up the box without her hands shaking too much. She placed the heavy, beautiful box in her lap, toying with the blue satin ribbon for a moment. She looked up into the faces of her idols – her friends – and smiled gently. "I don't know how to thank you so much for always making my birthday special," she began. She was stalling.

They knew it.

"You deserve it," Otoya said, waving at the box in her lap. "Go on, open it. It's that last one and then we can let you go spend a few minutes basking in all of that sparkle!"

She knew what he meant by that. After this gift, she could retreat to gather her wits about her and return to the rest of the day's celebrations. Now her hands shook slightly as she pulled the ribbon loose. It fell from the box with a silent whisper, down, draping across her lap as she pulled the top off the box.

She wondered when he'd purchased it; if it had been before or… after.

She lifted the top of the box and looked inside. And was stupefied. All she could do for a while was stare into the box at what was laying in the middle of the crushed blue velvet lining. Her heart began to race in her chest, so much that she was sure they all could see it trying to leap out of her chest. Her hands continued to tremble and she reached in and lifted the beautiful, crystal sculpture from its soft nest.

She saw the miniature cylinder, the comb, the coils inside the music box before her brain actually registered that it was in the shape a grand piano, exactly like the one in the corner. It was perfectly sculpted and shimmering, reflecting and refracting the sunlight from the window. She could feel herself starting to hyperventilate as she lifted the top and the music gently poured out, like a sweet songbird on the wing.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star…

She shut the top to silence the music and took a deep breath. She knew would be the most precious gift she'd been given, even above the diamonds in Ren's necklace. She blinked once, twice, praying that her expression stayed as neutral as possible given the circumstances. Steeling herself, turned and raised her eyes to the one who'd gifted her with this thing. He, of course, kept his expression still, but she could see something in the dark blue in his eye as she opened her mouth. It was the same thing she'd seen six days and nights ago, and it nearly struck her dumb as it had then, almost kept her from saying what she knew she had to say.

She could sense the others, those who knew and those who could only guess, holding their breath to see what she would say to the one who had broken the boys' pact and had broken her heart.

"Thank you, Hijirikawa-san," she said softly. "It is beautiful. I will treasure it."

"That makes me very glad…Haruka," he answered, the richness of his voice vibrating through to her soul. She expected him to call her Nanami, she expected him to hide behind his safe and practical formality. But, no, he had to call her by her given name, owning it as he always had. It wasn't fair that he could make a simple, everyday name sound like he made it sound.

She couldn't take it anymore. She tried, she'd really done her best, but she just couldn't sit there and pretend that her heart was light and she was happy.

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?

Muttering a swift apology to the others in the room, she stood, clutching the piano in her hands, ignoring the box as it bounced onto the floor and fled the room. She hoped and prayed that none of them followed her, because she wasn't sure she could say anything remotely intelligible to anyone for the next few hours.

She reached the sanctuary of her room, slammed the door, collapsed across her bed, cradling the crystal music box in her hands, and felt her coverlet grow damp with even more of her tears.

Why? She asked again for the thousandth time in as many minutes. Why did it have to happen like that? What had she done? Could she have stopped him? Why, had he allowed it when he knew-,

Shock touched her mind and she gasped, facing the thing she'd been avoiding since the week previous. Why had he done it when he knew she would have to continue working for them? Could she even work for them again, knowing she had to look at him, talk to him, write music for him, and watch him sing? Did she have that much strength inside of her?

Now she understood why romance was forbidden at the Agency.

Her phone went off, startling her. She sat up, still holding the music box, and picked it up, noticing the fact that she had a brand new text message. Almost involuntarily, she hit the button, though something inside of her was trying to tell her not to.

It is really hard to live in this world without you. That is why I blame myself for still breathing.

She hit the home button, turning her screen to normal.

Her heart twisted; she pushed the pain down. No more; at least, not today.

She even understood why Shining Saotome allowed all of it to happen, because she knew he had to know about it. He knew exactly how the situation would resolve itself. He knew the lesson would be learned, far more effectively than he could ever teach her directly.

She lay quiescent on her stomach, staring at the crystal music box. Her finger tripped the box open again and the tune began once more: Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are?